If you’ve ever heard a sound in your head that nobody else around you hears, then you’ve suffered from tinnitus. Whether you’re dealing with ringing, hissing, a roaring sound or the sound of your own heartbeat in your head, tinnitus can be a very upsetting thing to go through. It happens to about one in five people at some point during their lifetime. The good news is that if you’re experiencing tinnitus symptoms, you don’t have to live with the situation forever. There are many effective tinnitus remedies available.
Tinnitus Definition: A Symptom, Not a Sickness
It’s important to remember that tinnitus is not actually a sickness – it is a sign that there is something else going on. The noises that you hear can seem very soft or extremely loud. They can take many different forms, including:
People experience tinnitus symptoms in unique ways. Some people only hear the sounds when they are lying down or trying to go to sleep. Some people hear the sounds in one ear while others hear them in both ears. Some people experience tinnitus symptoms on a constant basis, while others find that their tinnitus comes and goes, with no apparent reason for why it appears or disappears. Most people will put up with the symptom of tinnitus for a while, but if you are dealing with tinnitus and the problem persists, it can become extremely frustrating and distracting.
Types of Tinnitus
If you go to the doctor for a tinnitus remedy, the first thing that they will do is conduct an examination to determine whether your tinnitus is caused by a sound that only you can hear, or whether they are able to hear the sound too. These are the two most basic types of tinnitus, and they are referred to as:
- Objective – Sounds that your doctor can detect
- Subjective – Sounds that nobody but you can hear
Objective sounds are usually caused by a physical problem such as a contraction in a muscle or some type of problem with a blood vessel or a structure in your ear. Subjective sounds are more common, but also more frustrating because they can be harder to find a cause for.
When you go to your doctor, the first thing they will do is give you a complete examination. They will look in your ears and up your nose. They will also pay special attention to your neck to see if they can find anything wrong. The exam will usually include a hearing exam and an eye exam. If they don’t find anything right away they may order a diagnostic test such as an MRI or CT scan.
Your doctor will ask a lot of questions about the types of sounds that you are hearing. They will also want to know if it is just in one ear or both, and whether there are some times that it goes away or is worse.
Unfortunately, the cause for tinnitus can remain a mystery – in many cases doctors are never able to figure out where the symptoms come from. The good news is that it is rarely a permanent situation.
There are many different tinnitus causes. Here are some of the most common:
- Damage to the inner ear – Deep within your ear there are tiny hairs that help carry the sounds in our environment to our brains. When something happens to these hairs and they get broken or bent, it can send mixed messages to the nerves. These disturbed impulses can lead to hearing sounds that aren’t actually there.
- Aging – Everybody knows that aging can result in hearing loss, but it can also lead to hearing things that aren’t there, or that nobody else can hear.
- Extremely loud noises – Some people experience tinnitus after going to a loud concert or a fireworks display, or working with very loud equipment or machinery. People do not realize that being exposed to loud noises on a regular basis – such as from listening to loud music through ear phones – can cause temporary or permanent damage that leads to ringing in the ears.
- Changes in the structure of the ear – Our ears are made of soft bones and cartilage, but some people have a condition known as otosclerosis that causes those bones to get hard and stiff. When this happens it impacts the way that our ears carry sound, and can lead to ringing or buzzing.
- Blockage – Our ears can easily get blocked by wax or foreign objects. When there is something in the way of the ear canal or ear drum, it can cause a ringing in the ears.
Other causes of tinnitus:
In addition to these common causes of tinnitus, there are also some diseases or injuries that can lead to ringing in the ears. These include:
- TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorders. TMJ is a problem that can develop in the joints on either side of your jaw, in front of your ears. It can cause severe pain, as well as tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries. If you suffer any kind of injury to the inner ear that changes the shape of your ear canal, bone structure or ear drum, it can lead to tinnitus in the ear where the damage occurred.
- There are some cases where benign tumors called acoustic neuromas can form on the nerve that runs between your ear and your brain. It can affect your hearing, as well as your balance.
- Inner Ear Fluid. When you have a build-up of fluid in your ear, it can cause a lot of pressure that leads to tinnitus. This can be an early sign of a condition known as Meniere’s disease.
Tinnitus and Blood Vessel Problems
There are some serious medical issues that can lead to vascular tinnitus. When we say that tinnitus is vascular, it means that its caused by blood vessel problems, or problems with your vascular system. These can include high blood pressure or defects in the capillaries that are close to the ear. Sometimes there can be the same type of build-up in the arteries near your ears as those that can form in the heart. When this type of build-up exists, it causes an increase in pressure in the blood vessels that make your heartbeat more apparent.
Tinnitus and Medication
The drugs you are taking to treat another health problem can cause temporary tinnitus. This is the easiest type of tinnitus to cure – just stop taking the medication and the tinnitus symptoms will go away. There are many different medicines that can have this effect, including:
- Diuretics meant to relieve water retention
- Medicines for malaria
- Antibiotics taken to fight infections
- Cancer medicines
If you suspect that your medicine is causing your tinnitus, don’t stop taking it unless you check with your physician first. The symptoms, though annoying, may be worth the benefit that the drug is providing to your health.
Finding the best tinnitus remedy depends on what is causing your problem. If your tinnitus is a result of ear wax or a blockage then your doctor will help you clear your ear canal and your tinnitus symptoms should go away. If it is caused by a medicine you are taking, they will probably give you a different drug to see whether that cures your problem.
If your tinnitus is caused by a blood vessel problem, they may put you on a medicine designed to lower your blood pressure. If you have a problem that needs a repair, they may suggest surgery.
Many times your doctor will recommend making adjustments to your environment to help you deal with tinnitus. The most effective of these is using a sound machine that masks the sound or playing music that distracts you from the sound in your head. Something as ceiling as a room fan can create just enough of a counter balance to the ringing in your ears to provide you with tinnitus relief. If your tinnitus comes and goes, your doctor may ask you to keep a journal of when your tinnitus symptoms appear. Keeping track of what you eat or drink may seem silly, but can reveal unexpected results, such as that your symptoms are worse after drinking coffee or eating a certain food. Knowing this type of information can go a long way towards helping you avoid tinnitus symptoms in the future.
Top Tinnitus Home Remedies
In many cases your doctor will not be able to find the reason behind your symptoms. That does not mean that a cure is not available: it just means that it may be harder to find. There are many different home remedies for tinnitus. Some of the ones that people have found work best include:
- Ginkgo Biloba – This is an herbal remedy that helps to increase your blood flow. Many people have found that it helps to reduce the sound of ringing in the ears. The best dosage of ginkgo biloba for tinnitus is 120 to 240 mg of extract, divided up and taken 3 or four times a day. It can take several weeks for this to work.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Drinking a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar a couple of times a day has proven to be a very effective tinnitus remedy. Doctors believe that this works because the apple cider vinegar helps to clear out any hidden infections that may be causing the sound in your ears. To make the vinegar taste better, mix it with a teaspoon of honey in a glass of water.
- Onion extract – Onions are another great way to fight bacteria and treat ear infections that you may not realize are causing your tinnitus symptoms. The easiest way to make onion extract is to chop an onion into small pieces and then heat them in the microwave. Strain them to extract the juice. Then put a few drops into the ear that is bothering you. Doing this a few times a week will usually clear up your tinnitus symptoms.
- Holy Basil – Sometimes tinnitus symptoms are accompanied by ear pain. When this is the case, holy basil is one of the best remedies around. All you need to do is to grind basil leaves into a paste – a blender is usually the easiest way. Strain the paste so that you can get juice out of it, then warm the juice and put a few drops into your ear using a dropper. Doing this twice a day for three or four days can make tinnitus go away.
- Salt Water Rinse – Sometimes problems with the ears are caused by pressure caused by a blockage of the sinuses. Salt water rinses are a great way to unblock your nasal passages. Just mix a teaspoon of salt with about two cups of warm water, then use either a spray bottle or a neti pot to flush the nasal passages and clear the blockage.
- Mustard Oil – Mustard oil can be found at your local market, and can help improve the circulation. It is also a very effective antibacterial and immune system booster. Warm a few drops and place in the affected ear, allowing it to sit for a few minutes. Do this a few times a week to clear up your tinnitus symptoms.
- Ginger Tea – Steeping a few slices of ginger in hot water and then drinking it can help to clear out your sinuses and improve your blood circulation. It is also a great way to fight infections. Drinking this two or three times a day for a few days will usually clear up tinnitus.
- Foods Rich in Vitamin A – Sometimes tinnitus is caused by a lack of Vitamin A. This is easily cured by eating Vitamin A-rich foods like pumpkin, carrots, beef liver and kale.
- Bromelain – Bromelain is an enzyme that is known to fight swelling and inflammation. The best source of bromelain is pineapple.
- Zinc supplements – Studies have shown that some cases of tinnitus are caused by a deficiency of zinc. By taking supplements, many patients have found that the ringing in their ears either goes away entirely or is dramatically reduced.
Lifestyle Changes that Can Help Cure Tinnitus
There are some habits that you may have adopted over the years that can eventually lead to tinnitus symptoms. This include smoking cigarettes and not getting enough sleep. Doctors have found that patients whose tinnitus does not clear up quickly can benefit by making certain lifestyle changes, including:
- Quitting smoking to begin immediately improving your heart and blood vessel health
- Getting more exercise to lower your blood pressure
- Eliminating or cutting back on exposure to loud noises
- Cutting out or limiting alcohol, which dilates your blood vessels and increases blood flow in your inner ear
- Cutting back on caffeine, which can raise your blood pressure
- Eating healthier food to lower blood pressure and improve your overall health
There are also some relaxation techniques and alternative medicine therapies that have been found to be extremely helpful. These include:
Medical Treatments for Tinnitus
People who have the most extreme cases of tinnitus that are not cured through home remedies or over a short period of time may find relief through some innovative medical treatments. The most popular of these include:
- Medications such as antidepressants or stress relievers. Many patients have found relief by taking Xanax for tinnitus, though this can make you very sleepy.
- TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) – this is a therapy that is used in Europe, though it is hard to find practitioners in the United States. It uses a special type of stimulation to reduce tinnitus symptoms.
- Tinnitus retraining – This is an innovative therapy that includes wearing a device that plays a sound in your ear. The sound is specifically chosen based on the sound that you are hearing in your head. Though it does not make the tinnitus go away, it provides relief by helping you to go more used to the sound so that it doesn’t bother you as much.
Dealing With Tinnitus
Though most cases of tinnitus are temporary, for some people the problem never goes away. If you can’t find a cure for your tinnitus, your best bet is to find coping mechanisms that help you learn to live with it. There are counselors available who are able to help you find ways to relax or distract yourself from the sounds. They can also offer you valuable tools to help your loved ones understand the frustration and stress that tinnitus can cause.
You may find it helpful to speak to others who are going through the same thing that you are. Tinnitus support groups are available in most major cities, and if you can’t find one near you there are plenty of them available online. Studies have shown that talking to others who are going through the same experience can offer real comfort.