Tinnitus is when you hear ringing or a sound like crickets in one or both ears. These sounds are not external, so other people can not hear them. They are sounds that are actually produced by your ears. Tinnitus is not a disease. It’s a sign that something else is happening in your body. Tinnitus is common as we begin to lose hearing. It’s important to have a hearing test when you have tinnitus, as this may be a sign of hearing loss or even grow on the hearing nerve.
There is another type of tinnitus that sounds like a pulsing sound, that may sound like a whooshing sound. This sound often corresponds to the speed of your heart rate and can get faster or slower depending on your heart rate. It’s important to see your doctor about this type of tinnitus. It can be a sign that there is a narrowing in an artery in your neck or brain that needs to be addressed.
Most of the time the steady tinnitus is what patients notice the most. It can be very bothersome. It can keep people awake at night and make it very difficult to fall asleep, and it can even lead to depression in some patients. Tinnitus can be in both ears or only heard in one ear.
What Causes Tinnitus?
- Hearing loss
- Thyroid disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis
- Medication side effects especially chemotherapy drugs and antidepressants
- Use of non-steroidal medications
Is there anything I can do about Tinnitus?
- The first thing to do is see the doctor so they can do a thorough exam and make sure there is nothing wrong with your eardrum, make sure there is no fluid behind the eardrum and remove wax if needed.
- A comprehensive hearing test is the next step. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, usually comes from hearing loss.
- Other causes of tinnitus could be a jaw problem, or TMJ disease, taking too much aspirin, or a common side effect of many medications.
- The most important tool we have to combat tinnitus is masking. Masking is a technique where you have a sound playing either from the TV, your phone, radio, etc. that will distract you from hearing your tinnitus sound.
- Hearing aids help with tinnitus as they can be programmed to mask the specific frequency that you hear the tinnitus in. Even white noise is helpful.
- Relaxation techniques to decrease stress such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is helpful to help your mind focus differently and find better ways to cope. It changes the way you think about tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy may be helpful.
- Changes in diet and lifestyle.
What Not to do When You Have Tinnitus
- Avoid situations where you’re in very quiet rooms. Stay away from total silence.
- Try not to focus on tinnitus. Don’t think to yourself, “do I hear the tinnitus?”
What Foods or Lifestyle Behaviors Can Worsen Tinnitus?
- Alcohol and Smoking. These can raise your blood pressure and cause tinnitus.
- Caffeine. Caffeine causes a lack of sleep which can be a trigger for tinnitus. It’s best to stay away from coffee, caffeinated tea, and chocolate. The reason caffeine is bad is that it lessens sleep, and lack of sleep can be a trigger for tinnitus.
- Salt. Salt raises blood pressure which can lead to restricted blood flow in the ears.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
- Saturated Fats.
What Foods Lesson Tinnitus?
- B12. Foods high in B12
- Potassium. Certain fruits are known to be helpful for decreasing tinnitus. Fruits high in the mineral potassium such as pears, bananas, papayas, pineapple, and mango
- Garlic. This improves blood flow and decreases inflammation.
Improving blood flow brings more oxygen-rich blood to the ear nerves. You can add garlic to your daily cooking routine. Some people eat a clove of garlic in the morning. If this is not your thing, you can add dried supplements daily.
- Zinc. Foods with high levels of the mineral zinc such as seafood, red meat such as beef and lamb, and spinach, which also contains lots of iron. Both of these can increase circulation and bring oxygen-rich blood to your hearing nerves.
While there is no absolute cure for tinnitus, tinnitus may be temporary or transient, or permanent. The goal of treatment is to lessen the body’s perception of the noise. Remember to see your doctor for a full exam of the ears and hearing exam to help guide you in the right direction and help you achieve your best life.