Natural Treatments for Ringing in the Ear
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
THE CONDITION OF UNWELCOME NOISES IN YOUR EARS, which are often described as buzzing, clicking, whistling, or high-pitched ringing sounds–is called tinnitus, which is the Latin word for ringing. Though not considered a serious or fatal condition, tinnitus does affect quality of life for many people. One in twenty Americans experiences prolonged tinnitus, and its occurrence increases with age.
Causes of tinnitus: it is almost always associated with hearing loss, and although the exact mechanism that produces the sounds is not well known, the sounds aren’t imaginary. The sounds may be intermittent, continuous, or pulsing. Tinnitus can interfere with normal activities and, because it usually is worse in the evenings, it tends to disturb sleep. There are many causes for tinnitus, including a degenerative auditory nerve, ear infections, neurological problems, sensorineural hearing loss, and Meniere’s disease. Many prescription medications and chemotherapy can also cause tinnitus. Hyperacusis is an over-sensitivity to certain sound frequencies and often occurs in combination with tinnitus. Fortunately, with treatment in the form of diet, herbs and acupuncture tinnitus can be substantially reduced or eliminated.
In Chinese medicine, the kidney-bladder network governs hearing and the ears. Tinnitus, then, is often associated with progressive kidney weakness brought on by overstrain, lack of sleep, and excessive sexual activity. Negative emotions are also often associated with tinnitus. Anger, frustration, resentment, and hatred block the liver energy, which over time produces fire rising up to the head, which disrupts hearing.
Diet plays a role as well. Overconsumption of cold and raw foods and dairy products promotes the formation of mucus, causing congestion and preventing proper nourishment of the ears. Digital audio player and cell phone use have contributed to the increased rate of hearing problems.
I had a patient in his fifties who suddenly lost 50 percent of his hearing in one ear and lived with a terrible ringing in both of his ears for several years. He saw many hearing specialists, and all advised him to get a hearing aid. Unconvinced or perhaps unwilling to acknowledge his problems, he came to see me as a last resort. He was a typical type-A personality. He worked sixty hours a week and was constantly traveling by plane for work. He also suffered from chronic sinus allergies. I focused on strengthening his kidney network, which was weakened from the wear and tear of his life, and regulating his emotions to ease stress, while at the same time clearing away mucus blockage. In doing so, I removed the root causes of the condition and allowed his body to heal itself. By using acupuncture and herbal therapy and advising him on appropriate diet and lifestyle–I insisted that he not travel for three months-his hearing has improved and the tinnitus is hardly noticeable. His audiologist is quite happy with the results–and so is he.
Related conditions: hearing loss, insomnia
Here are some of my recommendations for treatment of tinnitus:
HOME REMEDIES FOR TINNITUS
- Simple ear irrigation can remove excess ear wax buildup, which may be a cause of tinnitus. Earwax kits are available at some local pharmacies. You may also want to visit your ENT specialist if the problem becomes severe.
- Make a ginger-spice tea by boiling 1 heaping tablespoon each of dried oregano, cilantro, rosemary, sage, and cinnamon and 3 slices of fresh ginger in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes. Seal the pot to prevent steam from escaping as it boils. Drink 3 cups a day for at least 3 weeks.
- Salt treatment: heat 2 tablespoons of salt and place in a cotton pouch, seal it, and use as a heat compress by placing it over the ear for 10 minutes a day.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR TINNITUS
Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
- Cordiceps taken 3 times daily has been shown in clinical studies to reduce tinnitus.
- Ginkgo biloba can help stabilize hearing loss and tinnitus ringing by increasing capillary blood circulation.
- Traditional Chinese herbs for supporting healthy hearing function include rehmannia, wild yam, schizandra, Asian cornelian, and magnetite.
HOW TO TREAT TINNITUS WITH DIET AND NUTRITION
- A healthy and balanced diet with smaller and more frequent meals including ample amounts of complex carbohydrates and wholesome proteins is a good start.
- Adding more warming foods, such as organic chicken and lamb, can help strengthen the kidney yang energy.
- Baked tofu, eggs, fish, walnuts, scallions, sesame seeds, lentils, black beans, lotus seeds, ginger, and cinnamon bark are also helpful.
- Avoid cold and raw foods and icy beverages, as the coldness may constrict the eustachian tubes, causing poor drainage from the inner ears.
- Maintain a diet low in saturated fats and eliminate fried and greasy foods.
- Avoid processed meats and dairy products, as they have a tendency to increase mucus production. Protein deposits similar to those in milk have been found in the inner ears of patients with partial hearing loss.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR TINNITUS
- Melatonin (1 to 3 grams) taken8 daily can lessen symptoms of tinnitus.
- Zinc (50 milligrams) and manganese (5 milligrams) taken daily can help diminish tinnitus.
- Vitamin B complex supplements, including B12 (200 micrograms) can relieve tinnitus resulting from noise damage.
EXERCISE TO IMPROVE TINNITUS
Exercise is important for stimulating blood circulation, reducing cholesterol, and preventing the premature decline of vital energy. I recommend a regular regimen of daily qi gong and tai chi combined with moderate cardiovascular exercise.
I use qi gong exercises with my patients to help maintain good hearing and reduce degeneration. The Liver Cleansing Qi Gong is very useful, as are the Immortal Beating the Heavenly Drum and Immortal Sounding the Heavenly Bell exercises, which can be found on the hearing loss page. Do these exercises daily for optimum results.
• click to read Immortal Beating the Heavenly Drum
• click to read Immortal Sounding the Heavenly Bell
• For the Liver Cleansing Qi Gong, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a tree.
- Inhale, and raise your right leg.
- Exhale, and place your right foot on the ground in front of you between your body and the tree.
- Inhale, and raise both arms from the sides until they come together over your head.
- Exhale, and lower your hands in front of your face. Visualize green light running down your face as your hands move down to your chest.
- Inhale, and move your hands to the right rib cage over your liver.
- Exhale, and move your arms down your right abdomen and right leg, as if pushing down and out with your hands. Visualize a green light moving the toxins out of the liver and down the liver meridian on the inside of your right leg and out of the big toe.
The tree is a receptacle of liver energy and is capable of regenerating itself, much like its ability to absorb toxic carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
ACUPRESSURE TREATMENT FOR TINNITUS
- Find the acupoint Outer Gate (SJ-5), two thumb-widths above the outer wrist crease of the right hand, between the two tendons. Apply pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes.
TINNITUS: WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid certain antibiotics, including aminoglycosides, gentamicin, and tobramicin, which can cause tinnitus and hearing loss. Consult your physician.
- Avoid aspirin, as it can cause tinnitus.
- Avoid some diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix), in high doses
- Avoid some anti-hypertensive drugs, such as the combination bisoprolol and hydro-chlorothiazide (Ziac), which can cause hearing loss. Consult your physician.
- Avoid exposure to loud noise, and turn down ambient noises.
- Avoid alcohol use and smoking, which speed up hearing decline and promote plaque buildup, preventing proper nourishment of the ears and contribute to tinnitus.
- Axelsson, A., S. Andersson, and L. D. Gu. 1994. Acupuncture in the management of tinnitus: a placebo-controlled study. Audiology 33:351-60.
- Ni, M. Self Healing Qi Gong Video. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1992.
- Nielsen, 0.J., K. Moller, and K. E. Jorgensen. 1999. The effect of traditional Chinese acupuncture on severe tinnitus. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study with an open therapeutic surveillance [in Danish]. Ugeskr. Laeger. 161:424-29.
- Rosenberg, S.I., H. Silverstein, P. T. Rowan, and M. J. Olds. 1998. Effect of melatonin on tinnitus. Laryngoscope 108:305-10.
- Vilholm, 0.J., K. Moller, and K. Jorgensen. 1998. Effect of traditional Chinese acupuncture on severe tinnitus: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical investigation \,\rith open therapeutic control. Br. J. Audiol. 32:197-204.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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