Tinnitus: Symptoms, Causes and Natural Support Strategies
Tinnitus is a perceived sensation of a ringing, roaring, buzzing, chirping, or humming sound without any actual acoustical stimulation. It is estimated that over 15 million Americans experience this very disturbing condition on a regular basis. In this article, you will discover 8 ways to beat tinnitus naturally.
Research has shown that the many cases of chronic tinnitus are part of a degenerative process characterized by chronic inflammation (1). Lifestyle based solutions can reverse this inflammatory damage before it is too late.
Types of Tinnitus:
- Tonal Tinnitus – This type of Tinnitus generates a continuous sounds like “ringing in the ears”, a single note playing over and over.
- Pulsatile Tinnitus – The Tinnitus sounds are intermittent, continuous, or pulsating in time with the heartbeat.
- Whisling Tinnitus: Tinnitus in which the sound is a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or a hissing noise.
- Beeping Tinnitus: Tinnitus, in which the sounds are described as beeping such as a Morse code type of signal, or even musical notes.
- Multiple Noise Tinnitus: Tinnitus that is described as hearing several different types of noises at the same time.
Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. This has led to the theory that one cause of tinnitus may be a compensatory homeostatic response of central dorsal cochlear nucleus auditory neurons that make them hyperactive to any form of auditory stimulus (2).
This means that the ears become more sensitive in order to compensate for the hearing loss. This sensitivity picks up more faint sounds that create the tinnitus.
From a survival perspective, it would be more important to maintain sensitive hearing in order to be aware of danger quickly and live with tinnitus symptoms than to be insensitive to sounds and unable to respond to danger quickly.
The Most Common Causes of Tinnitus:
Tinnitus can be caused by a number of different conditions including build-up of inner ear wax, ear infections, vestibular disorders, exposure to loud noises, Meniere’s disease, low thyroid function, hypertension, allergies and on very rare cases a tumor. Over 250 medications list tinnitus as a common side effect of usage including aspirin and antibiotics (3, 4).
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is due to inflammation and poor circulation within the inner ear. When the body is chronically inflamed certain inflammatory mediating prostaglandins are secreted in high amounts (5).
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to tissue damage. It can be a very good thing. If you bang your elbow your body will produce inflammation to clean up debris and initiate the healing process. However, when our body is in a state of chronic inflammation problems arise. In fact, all degenerative disease such as arthritis, heart disease, cancer, etc. are associated with inflammation at the cellular level (6).
Must Control Inflammation:
These pro-inflammatory mediators cause an increase in vasoconstriction and platelet aggregation (7, 8). This decreases blood flow into the smaller capillaries of the body such as the inner ear. This inflammatory process also increases the lymphatic fluid in the inner ear. This combination increases pressure in the inner ear which stimulates the auditory nerve enough to create a series of action potentials that the brain interprets as sound.
The presence of inflammatory based tinnitus may be a warning sign that the entire body is inflamed and disease processes are forming rapidly. Most inflammatory conditions can be reversed through diet and lifestyle modifications and the use of beneficial supplementation.
Upper Cervical Spine and Tinnitus:
A 2000 study showed that tinnitus is very often caused by instability of the craniocervical junction (9). This could be related to subluxation and joint deformation or a more significant issue such as a prolapsed intervertebral disc or metastases as low as C3. Issues with the tempero-mandibular joint (TMJ) of the jaw can also play a role in tinnitus.
Chiropractic care specific to the upper cervical spine and TMJ can reduce stress on the region and improve function. Several studies have shown that chiropractic care addressing the upper cervical spine and TMJ can improve auditory function and have a beneficial effect on tinnitus (10, 11, 12).
An Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Plan:
Begin eating an anti-inflammatory diet that consists of phytonutrient dense fruits & vegetables, healthy fat sources, and grass-fed/free-range animal products. Keep sugar & grains to a minimum. Focus on getting in a lot of healthy fat sources such as coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed meat, free range eggs, avocados, nuts/seeds, and non-starchy vegetables as primary fuels throughout the day.
Load up on anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, ginger, dandelion, oregano, garlic, & green tea. The primary fruits that should be used are low-sugar, anti-oxidant rich ones such as lemons, limes, berries and grapefruits.
High Quality Essential Fats:
Several supplements have been shown to be highly beneficial for reducing inflammation and enhancing circulation throughout the body and in particular the inner ear. High quality sources of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA & DHA are critical for this process.
Omega 3’s are particularly key for influencing the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory prostaglandin formation (13). By providing the appropriate balance, these fats help to reduce inflammation and vasoconstriction that are part of the pathogenesis of tinnitus.
Plant based omega 3’s such as flax oil only contain the small chain omega 3 called ALA and do not have any DHA. It is very hard for our body to convert ALA into DHA so it is best to get a high quality fish or krill oil that is rich in EPA and DHA. You want to find a brand that is molecularly distilled to take out any heavy metals and other unwanted contaminants.
Be sure to discuss with your physician before using as fish oils have a blood thinning affect and can be contraindicated if you are on blood thinning medications.
Vitamin B12 and Tinnitus:
Vitamin B12 is a critical player in the formation of the myelin sheaths that surround and insulate nerve fibers. A vitamin B12 deficiency makes nerves more susceptible to the inflammatory damage that causes tinnitus (14).
Healthy meat sources are a great way to get Vitamin B12. Use digestive enzymes and apple cider vinegar with your meat products to enhance protein and B12 absorption. You can also use specific supplementation to get your B12 levels up. If you are low in B12, I recommend a sublingual dissolvable form of methyl-B12 in order to get right into the blood stream, so it can go to work without any disruption from the digestive system.
Boost up Anti-Oxidants:
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) play an enormous role in many disease processes because they damage various structural and functional cellular components. Studies have indicated that individuals who suffer with tinnitus have elevated serum values for reactive oxygen species (15, 16).
A 2007 study demonstrated that oral antioxidant therapy in patients with idiopathic tinnitus seems to reduce the subjective discomfort and tinnitus intensity (17). Other studies have shown that elevated levels of magnesium, vitamins A, C and E were effective at reducing trauma to the inner ear structures (18).
Action Steps to Improve Tinnitus
Here are the best action steps to get started with on your journey to improve tinnitus. It is important to note that these strategies are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure tinnitus and should not be confused as such. You should always consult with your physician before stopping or changing medications or taking on new health strategies.
Additionally, you should be working with a functional health practitioner to help guide you through these strategies. This is not an exhaustive list and there are other natural therapeutic strategies that I and functional health practitioners will utilize to help individuals with tinnitus.
Get Into Ketosis
Our modern-day diet is heavy or moderate in carbohydrates. As a result, most people’s body relies on glucose from dietary carbs to create energy. However, when your body doesn’t receive enough glucose because of a high-fat diet or fasting, it turns to dietary or stored body fat for energy.
These fats get turned into ketones that enter your mitochondria inside your cells and then get converted into energy. The benefits of ketosis include enhanced autophagy, reduced inflammation, improved mitochondrial biogenesis, improved brain health, and better mental sharpness.
The easiest and best way to achieve ketosis is through the combination of the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. To learn more about intermittent fasting, read the next section. To learn more about ketosis, I recommend reading this article. To learn more about the keto diet, I recommend this one.
Reducing stress is a critical for reducing inflammation and improving your health. I recommend that you reduce stressors from your life as much as possible. Turn off the news, and only look at it once a day or a few times a week for a specific period. Reduce your social media use and time on the internet.
Avoid people and situations that bring you down. Surround yourself with loving and uplifting people. Engage in uplifting and relaxation-promoting activities. Read, try some arts and crafts, play cards or board games, sing, and dance.
Spend time in nature and do some grounding walking barefoot on grass. Practice daily gratitude and try positive affirmations. Practice self-love and laugh with friends and family. Meditate, pray, journal, and try daily breathwork. Be grateful and smile more.
Improve Your Sleep:
Prioritizing good sleep is just as important as reducing your stress levels. Develop a regular schedule going to bed and getting up at the same time every day to support your circadian rhythms.
Avoid electronics, sugar, caffeine, heavy foods, and stress close to the bed. Engage in relaxing activities, including stretching, relaxing baths, meditation, and prayer. Make sure that you have a supporting bed, pillow, and bedding, and sleep in a dark calming room
Practice Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a form of fasting cycles between not eating (fasting) and eating (feasting) over a period of time. Intermittent fasting offers countless benefits including cellular repair, increased autophagy, immune regulation, inflammation levels, and insulin sensitivity.
It also helps to lower the risk of chronic diseases, including neurodegenerative conditions and mental health issues. If you are new to intermittent fasting, I recommend that you start with the Simple Fast, which includes only 12 hours of fasting including your overnight sleep. Slowly you can increase your fasting window.
Most people do the best with the 16:8 approach involving 16 hours of fasting. Make sure to consume nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods during your eating window and meet your caloric needs. To learn more about the benefits of intermittent fasting and best intermittent fasting practices, I recommend this article.
Vitamin D is a very important vitamin for brain function and keeping inflammation under control (19). Research has found that vitamin D supplementation may protect the blood-brain barrier, reduce neuroinflammation, and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases and mental health issues.
To optimize your vitamin D levels, I recommend spending time out on the sunshine regularly. Make sure to eat plenty of vitamin D-rich foods, such as fatty fish, beef liver, and egg yolks. Since food and sunshine are not enough, I recommend daily supplementation with Vitamin D3/K2.
Reduce Toxin Exposure
Reducing your toxic exposure is critical for preventing brain degeneration and tinnitus. Buy organic food as much as possible. Stop using conventional beauty, body, and household products, and replace them with organic, natural, or homemade alternatives.
Use glass, stainless steel, wood, and bamboo products instead of plastic. Spend time in nature and breathe in the fresh air. Use a good indoor air filtration system. Make sure that you drink clean, toxin-free water by using a high-quality reverse osmosis system.
I recommend systems like Aquatrue or the Berkey system for low cost filtration. The best water is the Synergy Science hydrogen water which is what I use at home as it is powered by molecular hydrogen which reduces oxidative stress in the body and improves immune function. Add a slice of lime for some extra flavor.
Support Detoxification Pathways
It is not enough to put good things into your body, you have to make sure that the bad things come out as well. Drink plenty of water to support detoxification through sweating and urine. Support your detoxification pathways to protect your body from brain inflammation and tinnitus.
I recommend using infrared saunas to promote detoxification through sweating. Try rebounding and dry-skin brushing to support your lymphatic pathways. Support two major detoxifying organs, your kidneys and liver with herbs like milk thistle, parsley, dandelion and bioactive carbons which can penetrate and remove toxins from deep within the tissues and cells.
Include Magnesium & B Vitamin Rich Foods:
Magnesium helps to improve blood sugar signaling patterns and protects the blood-brain barrier. The best magnesium and B vitamin rich foods include dark green leafy veggies, avocados, grass-fed animal products, raw cacao and pumpkin seeds.
You can also do Epsom salt baths to support your magnesium levels. It would also be wise to supplement with a good magnesium and B complex supplement. Look for magnesium L-threonate which is the best form of magnesium for crossing the blood brain barrier.
When it comes to B vitamins, it is best to look for one with pre-activated forms such as methyl-folate, methyl-cobalamin (B12), Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate form of B6, and Riboflavin-5-phosphate form of vitamin B2. The methyl groups are in the active form and will be better utilized by the body.
Improve Your Mitochondria:
The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of every cell. When someone has a neurodegenerative disorder, brain inflammation or tinnitus, it is a clinical sign that they have dysfunctional activity going on in the mitochondria.
Support your mitochondria with clinical doses of CoQ10, L-carnitine, N-acetyl cysteine, creatine monohydrate, B vitamins, magnesium, alpha lipoic acid and D-ribose. You can find mitochondrial support supplements that have most if not all of these key nutrients.
Support Gut Health
Your brain and gut are closely connected and supporting your gut is important for preventing and reducing brain degeneration and tinnitus. Make sure gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory, and nutrient-dense diet abundant in veggies, healthy fats, clean protein and probiotic-rich foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir.
Additionally, I recommend taking a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotics helps to optimize your gut health and improve your nutrient absorption while reducing gut related inflammation. When gut inflammation goes down it also reduces inflammatory mediators in the brain.
Low Intensity Movement:
A sedentary lifestyle reduces cerebrospinal fluid flow and can lead to increased oxidative stress in the brain. Movement and exercise are critical for brain health and can play an important role in the prevention of tinnitus. Regular movement may help to reduce chronic inflammation, decrease stress levels, and lower the risk of memory problems, learning troubles, and cognitive decline.
Aim to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes minimally 5 times a week combining cardiovascular exercise, strength and resistance training, and low-impact exercise. Make a commitment to stay active throughout the day. Take a walk during lunch, stretch regularly, play with your kids or pets, dance for your favorite song, take the stairs, and find other creative ways to sneak in movement into your day.
Tinnitus is a serious issue that affects millions of people around the world. The symptoms of tinnitus include include hearing problems, constant ringing in an ear or in both ears, dizziness and nausea. Follow the recommendations in this article to help prevent and improve tinnitus naturally.
You may notice improvements not only in your cognition, mental sharpness, mood, and energy but also in your overall health. If you want to work with a functional health coach, I recommend this article with tips on how to find a great coach. At my clinic, we offer long-distance functional health coaching programs. For further support with your health goals, just reach out and our fantastic coaches are here to support your journey.