Many of us hear noises throughout our daily lives that we may classify as annoying or bothersome. But to those suffering from tinnitus —whether this noise is a ringing, roaring, buzzing, or hissing—the annoying noise is constant and can be heard when there’s no external sound present. This makes it very hard for these people to concentrate, as the condition can sometimes be troublesome or even debilitating.
Types in Tinnitus and The Causes
There are two primary types of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is a noise that only you can hear. It accounts for over 95 percent of tinnitus. Objective tinnitus, sometimes described as a pulsing sound, can be heard by your doctor during an examination. This is often associated with muscular contractions or blood vessel problems.
Tinnitus can be caused by many factors, so it is often difficult to pinpoint the source. These conditions include age-related hearing loss, earwax, pressure or fluid in the middle ear, exposure to loud noises, head injury, or systemic conditions such as high blood pressure. Certain medications can also cause or even worsen tinnitus.
For some people with tinnitus, there may have an underlying, treatable condition. Your doctor may recommend switching to a different medication, removing earwax, or addressing a blood vessel condition.
Natural Remedies for Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus. While there may be medication or devices that can help make the noise less bothersome, there may not be anything that can eliminate the noise.
Recently, a wave of natural remedies has begun to spring up as a treatment option for tinnitus. Not usually recommended by doctors of audiologists, research has shown some natural remedies may provide minor relief for those who suffer from tinnitus.
One herb that may help with the effects of tinnitus is ginkgo biloba. An herb said to stimulate circulation, ginkgo biloba may impact a subset of people with tinnitus.
In a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers examined four previously published clinical trials (with a total of 1,543 participants) on Ginkgo Biloba for tinnitus.
In their review, the researchers found no evidence that ginkgo biloba was effective for people with tinnitus as their primary concern. In one of the studies, a small but statistically significant reduction in tinnitus symptoms was seen in people with either vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, so there may be some positive effects for the herb.
A popular therapy for tinnitus is acupuncture. This treatment, either manual or electroacupuncture, is sometimes said to help manage the symptoms of tinnitus.
In a review published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers examined previously published studies on acupuncture for tinnitus treatment.
In their report, the study’s authors found that the quality of studies was poor primarily. Of the nine randomized controlled trials that used acupuncture as the only treatment, the size and quality of the trials were not sufficient for drawing definitive conclusions.
They found that “acupuncture points and sessions used in Chinese studies may be more appropriate, whereas these studies have many methodological flaws and risk bias, which prevents us making a definitive conclusion.”
They concluded that acupuncture may offer subjective benefits to some people with tinnitus and that further research is warranted.
An essential trace mineral, zinc is involved in nerve transmissions throughout the auditory pathway in the body and has been linked to tinnitus in several early studies.
A study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology assessed zinc levels in people with tinnitus. Of the 100 people in the study, 12 had low serum zinc levels. The severity and loudness of tinnitus were more significant in those with low zinc levels.
Not all studies have found a link between zinc levels and tinnitus. A study published in Clinical and Experimental Otorhinolaryngology, for instance, used data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to examine the relationship between serum zinc levels and tinnitus.
After analyzing data from the 2,225 people who responded to the tinnitus questionnaire and provided blood samples to measure serum zinc, the researchers concluded that the low zinc levels were not related to tinnitus.
Biofeedback And Vitamin Therapy
Biofeedback is a process that involves learning to consciously control vital functions that are usually unconscious, such as heart rate and breathing. In a recent study, researchers found that a combination of biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy could help decrease tinnitus-related distress.
Preliminary studies have also looked at the role of vitamin B12 and magnesium in people with tinnitus.
Due to a lack of supporting research, it’s too soon to recommend these remedies to treat tinnitus. If you’re considering using supplements, talk with your doctor first to weigh the potential risks and benefits.
Although it can be frustrating to hear that it may not be possible to eliminate the noise, there are strategies that you may be able to work into your daily life to make it easier to manage or cope with your symptoms.
For example, periods of stress activate your body’s fight or flight response and can worsen symptoms. Getting regular exercise and practicing meditation, mindfulness, or other relaxation techniques may help to improve your overall health, sleep, and ability to manage stress.
It is essential to see a doctor or an audiologist if you believe you may be suffering from tinnitus. Getting a professional opinion and hearing evaluation is critical to finding a suitable treatment for your tinnitus.
While natural remedies may help with managing your tinnitus, most are medically unproven. Getting the appropriate opinion from a licensed professional is the most important thing you can do on your road to recovery.