Ask the Doctor – February 2009


Dr. Rona:

What do you have for tinnitus (ringing in the ears)?

– Mike


Dear Mike:

Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) is an extremely common complaint (12 million Americans suffer from the annoying problem) and may occur as a symptom of nearly any ear disorder including obstruction of the external auditory canal by wax and foreign bodies, Meniere’s disease, infectious disease involving the outer, inner or middle ear, anxiety neurosis, Eustachian tube obstruction, allergies, otosclerosis (an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear), noise induced hearing loss and trauma (e.g. as in the case of a skull fracture).  Low frequency vibratory clicks, pops, roarings, etc., are usually due to contraction of muscles of the Eustachian tube, middle ear, palate or pharynx and are not considered to be in the same category.  TMJ (temperomandibular joint dysfunction) can also be associated at times with tinnitus.

Tinnitus may also be associated with high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, anemia, a low thyroid condition, the candidiasis hypersensitivity syndrome, heavy metal toxicity (lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium), carbon monoxide exposure, aspirin, and drugs such as diuretics, antibiotics, quinine and alcohol.  Dental fillings that use silver, mercury, copper and other metals may be responsible for a long list of neurological problems that include ringing in the ears.  So can root canal work of all types.

Medical treatment is directed at the underlying cause, but conventional doctors often just prescribe drugs like Serc, antihistamines, tranquilizers and anti-depressants to suppress the symptoms.  In rare cases, surgery is offered but only if there is some sort of obstructive lesion that can be repaired in that way.

If the conventional approaches fail to correct the ringing, a number of safe, natural alternatives can be tried.  For example, studies show that diet changes can make a difference.  For example, studies show that dietary measures taken to reduce blood levels of cholesterol and saturated fat helps the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the inner ear.  One study on a group of 1400 patients demonstrated benefits when saturated animal fats were reduced in the diet.  Becoming a vegan has its benefits.

Other studies show symptom improvement when sugar is eliminated from the diet.  Inner ear problems and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) have been shown to be associated as far back as 1954.  Other researchers report that salicylate-free diets benefit some cases.  As with most diet therapies, biochemical individuality will dictate effectiveness.  Allergies, particularly food allergies, can cause fluid retention in the labyrinth.  Excessive salt in the diet can do the same. A trial therapy with an elimination diet and a salt free diet is worth doing in very resistive cases.

Over the years, doctors have noted that supplementation of the diet with high doses of niacin (vitamin B3), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and other B vitamins eliminates the ringing in many where the cause is unknown.  Inner ear problems may also be helped by supplementation of vitamins A, D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, zinc and omega-3-EPA oils (found in cod, halibut, trout, salmon, herring and mackerel).  Ginkgo biloba extract (G.B.E.) and ginger are two safe herbs, which have been reported to reduce or eliminate tinnitus. G.B.E. improves blood supply to the brain and has a significant free radical scavenging effect.

The famous Dr. Andrew Weil claims that osteopathic manipulation may help some. I suspect chiropractic and cranio-sacral therapy would also work. Finally, a recent study indicates that the hormone, melatonin, can help the problem. The usual effective dose is 3 mg before bedtime. Discuss these complementary medicine treatment options with your naturopath or medical doctor.


Dr. Zoltan P. Rona is a graduate of McGill University Medical School (1977) and has a Masters Degree in Biochemistry and Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut (1984). He is the author of 11 books on natural medicine – three of which are Canadian bestsellers, The Joy of Health (1991), Return to the Joy of Health (1995), and Childhood Illness and The Allergy Connection (1997). He is co-author with Jeanne Marie Martin of The Complete Candida Yeast Guidebook (1996) and is medical editor of the Benjamin Franklin Award-winning Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (1998). He has had a private medical practice in Toronto for the past 32 years, has appeared on radio and TV as well as lectured extensively in Canada and the U.S. Visit his website for appointments, call (905) 764-8700; Office: 390 Steeles Ave. W. Unit 19, Thornhill, ON

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