Hearing a sort of ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, whistling, humming or even sizzling noise in your ear from time to time is something that many people experience. As long as this is a rare occurrence and does not bother or distract you from your daily activities, you need not worry. But when these sounds occur frequently and begin to be bothersome due to having such a high intensity that they ruin your focus, you are dealing with tinnitus, a condition that may have more serious underlying causes.
What is tinnitus?
Simply put, tinnitus is a condition characterized by hearing various kinds of noises, at different intensities. How do you know it’s tinnitus? Your health care provider is the first person you must address for a diagnosis and treatment plan. However, if noises in your ear persist and start to bother you to the point they interfere with daily activities and in the absence of an underlying condition, then you can assume you are talking about tinnitus.
How does tinnitus manifest?
Tinnitus symptoms include ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, whistling, humming or sizzling noises that occur without an external triggering factor, meaning you are the only one hearing them and they do not appear to be caused by something in particular occurring in your surroundings. For some people, tinnitus resembles the noise of running water while for others it is more like hearing the wind blow. I often experienced on-going sizzling noises or a sort of background noise like the one made by old fridges. For many people tinnitus manifests as a sort of static noise.
Tinnitus can occur either in one ear or in both and it is estimated that most people have experienced the condition at least once in their lifetime as a result to prolonged exposure to loud noises. For some people, tinnitus may become quite painful. Depending on what is causing it, sufferers may progress from mild discomfort to severe pain. In many cases, it leads to partial or complete hearing loss.
What causes tinnitus?
Common causes for tinnitus or ringing ears include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Hypotension (low blood pressure).
- Other blood circulation problems.
- Noisy environments, noise vibrations.
- Head or neck injury.
- Thyroid problems.
- Overuse of aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, antibiotics, antidepressants, sedatives.
- Ear infections and frequent colds causing ear infections.
- Ear wax plugs.
- Tumors (generally rare).
Other possible causes for ringing ears: allergies, alcohol consumption, caffeine, smoking as well as a high intake of salt, sugar and artificial sweeteners may trigger the condition or worsen it if it already manifests.
How to treat tinnitus?
It is important to note that tinnitus is not classified as a condition, but rather as a symptom. Some people may experience it from time to time throughout their life without it encumbering their daily activities and without it necessarily meaning anything, while others may require medical care, especially if there are more serious causes to it. Usually, natural remedies and alternative solutions are the recommended approaches when the symptom is not a result of an underlying condition. But when it is, like in the case of high blood pressure, ear infections, injury and so on, it is advisable to see your doctor. Remember that tinnitus can easily lead to total hearing loss.
Also, keep this in mind when deciding to approach any of the following treatment options and solutions: what may work for me might not necessarily work for you too. We are all different and may respond differently to the same approach, which is perfectly fine. It just means we have to keep looking for the right solution for us individually. See below my list of 6 treatment options and solutions that can help manage pain, reduce discomfort and provide relief for tinnitus.
Tips and solutions
Rosemary, cypress, lemon and rose essential oils can be used for head and neck massage or in a diffuser device to encourage and promote relaxation. The essential oils are meant for external use only and must not be used as ear drops or ingested.
According to a study conducted by the Department of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, ginkgo biloba leaf extract may prove an effective treatment for tinnitus. Ginkgo biloba is also said to improve memory and concentration and reduce confusion, depression, anxiety, dizziness and headache. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants suggests black cohosh as a herbal remedy for blood congestion and high blood pressure, two possible tinnitus causes and recommends hawthorn as a tonic for the circulatory system, also meant to improve tinnitus symptoms.
Calcareous sponges (Calcarea), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), unroasted coffee beans (Coffea cruda), graphites, potassium carbonate, Lycopodium, Natrum salicylicum are proven to provide relief to tinnitus sufferers.
Because tinnitus is, after all, a ‘hearing’ problem, listening to relaxing sounds (ocean waves crashing, birds chirping, rain pouring) can help immensely. Tinnitus is known to occur more often after being exposed to loud noises for prolonged periods of time, hence the reason why sound therapy might help. If normal hearing does not come back after some time, it is possible that vibrations caused by the loud noise might have displaced something in the ear, producing physical damage, in which case consulting a doctor is important.
Other relaxation techniques
Massage, yoga, meditation are proven to be highly efficient at inducing relaxation and alleviating various kinds of pain, aches or other symptoms. If tinnitus is caused by stress in general, a stressful event causing blood pressure levels to rise or by spending time in a particularly noisy environment, relaxation techniques should help restore balance and normal hearing.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins and plenty of vitamin D (from sunbathing) as well as a good intake of iron, manganese, magnesium and potassium (to help with blood circulation) can help treat some of the causes of tinnitus and relieve discomfort and pain.