What are your Ears trying to tell you when they ring
Up to twenty percent of us are walking around with our ears ringing, trying to tell us something, the frustrating part is figuring out what they are saying! Tinnitus, ringing or noise in the ears is a symptom, which means it has a cause; it is not a disease on its own. However, this symptom can be so severe that it can interfere with work, social life and even sleep. The causes for tinnitus can vary from person to person, however the message from the ears is the same, something is out of balance and needs support!
This symptom needs to be evaluated by a physician, especially when other symptoms are present. Nausea, dizziness, headaches or fatigue could mean something more systemic is occurring, like an infection. Other times, ringing in the ears can be an isolated symptom, potentially of damage to nerves in the ear or an excess or deficiency in the body.
The most common cause of tinnitus is nerve damage, whether from a medication, systemic disease or trauma.
Because our ears and hearing is sensitive, it is often impacted by medications that are intended to treat other parts of the body. Any medication can affect an individual differently and this list is not comprehensive. If you are on medication and experience tinnitus, talk to your physician about side effects and interactions. Medication with the known side effect of ringing in their ears:
- Anti-inflammatories and aspirin
- Antibiotics- specifically erythromycin, vancomycin and neomycin
- Cancer medication- mechlorethamine and vincristine
- Blood pressure medication- especially diuretics
Most of these drugs have alternatives both in the conventional medicine and natural medicine arena. With a few exceptions, there should be no need to suffer tinnitus when your medication could be changed to one that doesn’t upset your ears.
Systemic conditions may manifest as ear ringing from autoimmune to cardiovascular, therefore it is very important to understand the cause. Improving Cardiovascular health may help low or high blood pressure, which can cause ringing. Presbycusis, or age related hearing loss, may be improved by increasing antioxidants and supporting hormone balance.
One of the most notorious causes of tinnitus is Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease, is a disorder of the inner ear, which due to an imbalance of fluid causes a sense of fullness, ringing, hearing loss and vertigo. Symptoms wildly vary from person to person and episode to episode. The cause of Meniere’s is unknown, though it is speculated to have different potential triggers, including: autoimmune, improper fluid drainage, genetic predisposition, immune response to a virus or allergy and neurological response much like a migraine.
Conventional treatments for Meniere’s disease include a low sodium diet and occasionally medication like a diuretic. In some cases, more extreme medications are used to quiet the ringing and help reduce vertigo.
Because there is no one cause to Meniere’s, there is no one solution. However, there have been studies showing food sensitivities, specifically gluten, to be associated with Meniere’s symptoms. Also, improvement of levels of nutrients that support hearing health, such as healthy fats and B Vitamins have also been shown to reduce symptoms. Stress management and hormone balance also often play a role with managing Meniere’s. Conventional labs offer testing for nutrient levels, stress hormones and even proper ratios of healthy fats in the body! For even severe cases of tinnitus, which are possible with Meniere’s disease, evaluation of the whole individual offers potential insight as to causes and solutions, instead of simply managing symptoms.
The best way to help your ears and hearing is to prevent damage or further damage. Keep the whole body as balanced as possible is a smart start. Prevention of tinnitus can also mean focusing on the hearing system itself, and can take two forms, protecting and fortifying.
Shielding our ears from damage can mean avoiding when possible taking medications that can harm hearing. Also keeping ears protected in loud situations or otherwise avoiding those situations altogether can reduce risk of damage.
Nerve conduction in our ears and throughout our bodies are protected and insulated by a coating known as a myelin sheath. This coating is made up of essential fatty acids as well as Vitamin B12. Nerves are also highly vascular and require good blood flow. Blood thinners like Ginkgo and fish oil have been implicated in helping protect the ears and reduce tinnitus.
One of our most important senses can often be a barometer to our whole body’s health. Listening to our bodies may enhance our hearing overall!
Dr. Ashley Burkman is a board certified licensed naturopathic physician at Connecticut Natural Health Specialists, LLC in Manchester, CT. She is in network work most insurance companies and is now taking new patients. For appointments, please call (860)533-0179.