Alternative Treatments for Tinnitus
There are countless issues associated with ears and hearing, one of which is tinnitus. This is a name given to a sound perceived in the ears without a corresponding external source. While most people say they perceive a ringing sound, others talk of hissing, buzzing, roaring, chirping and even shrieking sounds! This can happen in one or both ears perceived either inside the head or from a distance. These sounds can be pulsating, constant or intermittent and differ in loudness from one person to the other.
Let’s get something straight first; tinnitus is pretty common with everyone who has been exposed to extremely loud sounds or some medication. This is usually temporary and clears by itself. If this issue is caused by something else, it is termed as chronic and may last a while longer, months even. This can, however, be treated.
Common Causes and Triggers
While tinnitus is mostly associated with hearing problems, it is not in itself a serious condition. It is not an indication of hearing loss, neither is it a result of hearing loss. If anything, it can be characterized by hypersensitivity to sound (hyperacusis), and may need you to muffle external sounds. Mostly, it is just an annoyance that is associated with old age. It can, however, be a symptom of an underlying serious condition.
In most cases, tinnitus is a result of old age. However, there are a few other issues that can cause these sounds. Some of these causes include the following.
• Ear blockage which could be as a result of infection, wax buildup or rare conditions such as auditory nerve benign tumor
• Some medications are known to cause this sound effect – aspirin, some antibiotics, some anti-inflammatory drugs, some sedatives and antidepressants, anti-convulsants, some cancer drugs and loop diuretics, and sometimes quinine medication
• Ear diseases such as Meniere’s disease and Otosclerosis which affect the inner and middle ear respectively
• Injuries to the head, neck or jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint syndrome
While tinnitus is more annoying than it is dangerous, it can be worsened by some lifestyles and habits. For starters, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeinated drinks, and select food items are known to exacerbate the issue.
Tinnitus and Zinc
There has been endless debate and studies to prove the effectiveness of several dietary supplements in the treatment of tinnitus. This is as a result of companies flaunting their supplements as treatment options for this hearing issue.
Lipo-flavonoid is one of the many supplements that are marketed as an effective treatment option for tinnitus. However, studies conducted show little evidence to this effect despite extensive marketing efforts suggesting its usefulness. Lipo-flavonoid is an OTC supplement that contains Vitamin C and vitamin B (B3, B6, and B12) with eriodictyol glycoside (a phytonutrient found in the lemon peel) as the main ingredient.
While lipo-flavonoids have little evidence of effectiveness, there are several other supplements that have been studied for tinnitus treatment. Some of the supplements include the following.
Zinc is one of the essential minerals that are vital for a healthy immune system, wound healing and protein production in the body. It is also essential in protecting ear structures that are usually affected in tinnitus. The relation between tinnitus and zinc effectiveness is the subject of several studies in different countries.
There have been extensive studies and trials conducted on the effectiveness of the zinc pill on people of different age groups (from 20 years to 70 years of age). It was recorded that people with zinc deficiencies made up to 69% of the patients with tinnitus! The pill effectively helped in raising the body’s zinc levels. While the pill may not have had a lot of success with younger age groups, older people reported a reduction in the loudness of the sounds after taking the pill.
This is one of the most used supplements among those who experience tinnitus. It works by alleviating the effects of the damage caused by harmful free radicals. It is also said to improve blood flow in and through the ear. American Academy of Otolaryngology indicates that some studies have proven its effectiveness in treating this hearing issue. Ginkgo biloba and tinnitus management depends on the causes. There are some cases where this supplement is not effective. If you do choose to try this supplement, beware of side effects such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting. This supplement should not be taken by people who have blood clotting disorders or those who are on blood thinners.
Melatonin and Tinnitus
First things first; melatonin is a hormone. This hormone is produced in the brain and is responsible for a wide range of roles, the main one being the control of circadian rhythms. This hormone is produced in the brain’s pineal gland and controls the body’s sleep-wake cycles. With age, the body produces less of this hormone. This is the reason why it is available as a pill and is used medically for several conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus, and radiation exposure.
Tinnitus is characteristic of annoying sounds of varying loudness, which sometimes interferes with sleep patterns. It is common to see people with tinnitus report of sleep deprivation from the sounds, which is often accompanied by stress and anxiety as the body doesn’t get enough time to rest.
The human body is controlled by hormones. The circadian rhythm, using the day/night daily cycle, maintains the body’s activities by releasing time-specific hormones. For example, hormones are released in the late afternoon to early evening to prepare the body for rest/sleep. Hormones are released in the early morning hours to prepare the body for waking and subsequent activities. Melatonin is secreted at night to help in the sleep cycle and suppressed during the day. When the levels of natural melatonin are low in the body, it interferes with the sleep cycle, and the body doesn’t get the rest it needs to self-heal, leading to stress and a myriad of other health issues.
According to several studies conducted with melatonin and placebos pills, the results prove that the supplements significantly reduce the intensity of the tinnitus and improve sleep quality. While this hormone is used even with chronic tinnitus, it is especially effective in the following groups of people.
• Males as compared to females
• People who do not have a history of depression
• People who have not tried any other tinnitus treatment
• People with a history of prolonged exposure to noise
• People with bilateral and severe tinnitus
Before you self-prescribe melatonin pills, it is important to seek medical advice. This is because the hormone can cause some adverse side effects despite its good interactions with other medications. Melatonin and tinnitus management is a ground that should be trended carefully, and only with medical advice.
Tinnitus and Curcumin
Among the many dietary substances that are said to help with tinnitus, curcumin tops the list. This is a substance that is contained in turmeric; one of the most commonly used spices across the globe. Numerous lab tests conducted on curcumin indicated that it can block tumor growth as well as stabilize colorectal cancer. Other tests suggest that this turmeric extract protects against stomach ulcers, colitis, and high cholesterol.
Traditionally, turmeric has been used to treat a myriad of issues caused by inflammation. This includes rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and tinnitus among other issues. Tinnitus caused by inflammation, stress or free radicals is effectively alleviated by curcumin.
It is important to note that there has not been any official extensive research conducted on turmeric extracts to prove the extent of their effectiveness. Therefore, there is no standard dosage. However, it is advisable not to take large amounts of the spice as they can cause diarrhea and nausea among other side effects.
Tinnitus and Mindfulness Meditation
Tinnitus can be pretty annoying; that is the one thing that everyone who has experienced it agrees with. With time, however, the brain learns to habituate to it, adjusts to the presence of the noise and even learns to stop responding to it. As a result, one becomes less aware of the noise. While this comes pretty easy to some people, others experience some difficulty in getting their brains habituated to the noise. One of the main obstacles of this habituation is attention focus and stress. This is where mindfulness meditation can help.
Mindfulness is an old practice origination from Buddhist meditation practices where one learns to be specific and intentional on what to focus on. With time, this practice has been taken up by Western medicine and is now being used as a non-religious, therapeutic approach to manage a myriad of chronic health conditions. One such condition is tinnitus.
To be clear, mindfulness does not fix tinnitus; it aims at making the sound less intrusive to the point that it is no longer annoying or bothersome. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy trains the mind to be more aware of all other aspects of daily life thereby taking away attention from the sounds.
This training, which is sometimes referred to as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy in hospital settings, combined with relaxation therapy, has been pretty effective in managing this issue. With consistency and a lot of practice, guided meditation is pretty effective. 80% of patients in a study group reported a significant decline in the symptoms of tinnitus after 6 months of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In addition to reduced anxiety and sleep deprivation due to the noise, these patients also reported a higher tolerance and acceptance of the condition, which improved their quality of life.
Yoga and Tinnitus
Over the years, yoga has been reported as effective in alleviating anxiety and stress, improving flexibility and increase blood circulation in the body. Yoga exercises have been proven over time to stimulate muscles and organs to release toxins as well as improve immunity.
While the exact pathophysiology of tinnitus is not clear, treatment options are mostly focused on giving relief for the symptoms. Some of the causes that are associated with tinnitus include depression, insomnia, and anxiety, against which many prescribed tinnitus medications fight. Additionally, some treatment options are anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antiglutamatergic and benzodiazepines that target neural activity associated with tinnitus
Yoga stimulates the limbic system, reduces sympathetic hormones and activates neuromuscular systems. A study was done on 12 adults taking 1 hour of yoga exercise per week for 3 months recorded an improved response to tinnitus.
Yoga is effectively used as part of the cognitive-behavioral therapy that trains the mind to focus on relaxation, breathing, and other body sensations and take away attention from tinnitus. The exercises include poses that control the body’s autonomic nervous activities through intentional and deep breathing. The posture relaxes the mind and stretches the body thereby causing the relief to the muscles and improved blood flow.
The study concluded that yoga therapy mechanisms do indeed play a role in reducing the irritating symptoms of tinnitus. The relation between yoga and tinnitus management requires further studies.
Tinnitus and Phones
We’ve all heard about mobile phones’ electromagnetic radiofrequency radiations and their effects. We have also read countless articles that suggest that these radiations may cause of trigger a myriad of health issues. While these claims are mainly unverified, the general public seems to believe in them. The case of tinnitus and phones is no different.
It has been claimed that prolonged use of mobile phones can trigger or worsen a case of tinnitus. The claim is so prevalent that a group of researchers in Australia conducted a study in an effort to prove whether there is a correlation.
In the study, the researcher had a group of selected adults with tinnitus. This group of adults did not include anyone on medication for tinnitus or anyone with high blood pressure or noise-induced hearing issues. All the adults in the study were questioned on their phone use habits.
The results of the study concluded that the use of phones may be associated with tinnitus. However, the study did not conclusively indicate that the use of phones was directly responsible for the tinnitus. It merely concluded that there could be a possibility and further studies (probably with a larger number of participants with varying conditions) were required in order to accurately prove the role of mobile phone use in tinnitus.
Tinnitus is not a life-threatening issue, as annoying as it is. The most important thing when dealing with tinnitus is managing it well. There is a myriad of options available to you that make it easier to manage this issue. It is advisable to seek medical assistance before you take up any of the remedies you read about online.