By Mike Spencer
Founder of Meniere’s Help. Researcher and author of Managing Meniere’s -How to Live Symptom Free and The Need for Balance – Dealing with the Causes of Meniere’s
Dealing with Tinnitus
According to the CDC, around 50 million people suffer with tinnitus in the US. That is 15% of the population. According to Science daily, one in seven worldwide suffer from tinnitus.
There are many causes of tinnitus, ranging from noise induced, infections, trauma (physical and psychological), drug side effects, diseases, age, TMJ, blood conditions and stress.
How tinnitus sounds and feels is unique to the individual but it varies between ringing, buzzing, clicking, humming, roaring, hissing and indescribable sounds. It can range from slightly annoying to absolutely tortuous.
In Meniere’s disease an increase in tinnitus can precede increases in ear pressure, dizziness and a full blown vertigo attack. Tinnitus can fluctuate greatly and increases can last minutes to days and weeks.
What causes this increase and what can you do about it? The same triggers that result in pressure build up inside the ear, dizziness and eventually vertigo are the same for tinnitus; increased inflammation and blood pressure.
So what can cause increased inflammation and blood pressure?
- Stress and anxiety
- Too much sodium
- Alcohol consumption
- Chemicals in processed food
- Excess sugar consumption
- Lack of sleep
- Extreme anger
- Lack of essential nutrients
- Loud noise
- Excess consumption of caffeine
- Stimulant drugs
Medications known to cause or worsen tinnitus include:
- Antibiotics, including polymyxin B, erythromycin, vancomycin (Vancocin HCL, Firvanq) and neomycin
- Cancer medications, including methotrexate (Trexall) and cisplatin
- Water pills (diuretics), such as bumetanide (Bumex), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin) or furosemide (Lasix)
- Quinine medications used for malaria or other health conditions
- Certain antidepressants, which may worsen tinnitus
- Aspirin taken in uncommonly high doses (usually 12 or more a day)
* Source: Mayo Clinic
Electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure
A very modern cause of tinnitus and indeed Meniere’s disease, may be over exposure to electromagnetic fields. With the rapid saturation of EMFs all around us from wifi, cell phones and cell phone towers has also come an increase in prevalence of tinnitus in young people.
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Neurology, ‘Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry’, it stated that 29 % of students between the ages of 11 and 17 had already developed chronic tinnitus!
Tinnitus shares pathophysiology with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. All things that use electricity generate EMFs, so that includes your computers, televisions, cell phones and household appliances etc.
Your body also uses electrical signals to transmit information. In your brain, neurons communicate with each other via minute electrical charges, and external EMFs can interfere with these signals.
According to the Environmental Health Center -Dallas, “The extent to which EMF affects human health varies depending on the physiological history and genetic predisposition of the person. But exposure to changes in the larger fields of the sun, moon and our planet can affect almost every part of our being from head to heart and from head to toe.
Man made electrical fields likewise affect our body. Their effect depends on the strength of the fields, the distance from the source, and the length of the exposure time. Electrical current passing through the body can injure tissue and damage nerve transmission.
Cell phones produce Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) in the ultra high frequency range or Radio Frequency (RF) range. The radiation emanating from these RF fields can be linked with increased risk of glioma and acoustic neuroma.”
Acoustic neuroma is something that is usually checked for with MRI when diagnosing Meniere’s disease.
As far back as 1994, the American Bar Association Journal reported that EMF cases were being filed at the rate of about one per month.
In 2009 study published on pubmed (Association of Tinnitus and Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity: Hints for a Shared Pathophysiology?), it stated that, “Our data indicate that tinnitus is associated with subjective electromagnetic hypersensitivity. An individual vulnerability probably due to an overactivated cortical distress network seems to be responsible for both electromagnetic hypersensitivity and tinnitus.“
A 2018 study published in Science direct (Tinnitus and cell phones: the role of electromagnetic radiofrequency radiation) concluded with, “There are already reasonable evidences to suggest caution for using mobile phones to prevent auditory damage and the onset or worsening of tinnitus.”
The first way to avoid Tinnitus from EMF is obviously to reduce your time in close proximity to cell phones and do an environmental check for your house and surrounding area.
There are various suggested treatments for “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity”, including detoxing heavy metals from your body.
How to avoid increases in tinnitus
In many cases blood flow may be a major issue with Meniere’s. There is already constant inflammation so anything that adds to that or decreases the ability of your immune system to deal with inflammation will result in increased symptoms, including tinnitus.
So it stands to reason that you should avoid anything that lowers your immune system, affects blood flow or increases the possibility of inflammation.
- Reduce stress and anxiety through stress management
- Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and stimulant drugs
- Get regular exercise
- Get enough sleep, with regular sleep patterns
- Avoid processed foods
- Avoid too much sugar
- Avoid too much sodium
- Eat regular healthy meals
- Strongly consider dietary supplements to strengthen immune system
- Drink water regularly
Studies have shown that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
A 1993 study, ‘Vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with chronic-tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss’ concluded that, “These observations suggest a relationship between vitamin B12 deficiency and dysfunction of the auditory pathway. Some improvement in tinnitus and associated complaints were observed in 12 patients following vitamin B12 replacement therapy. The authors recommend that routine vitamin B12 serum levels be determined when evaluating patients for chronic tinnitus.”
A 2016 study, Therapeutic role of Vitamin B12 in patients of chronic tinnitus stated, “This pilot study sheds light on the relationship of deficient B12 levels and tinnitus and its supplementation playing a therapeutic role in tinnitus.”
Vitamin B12 is an ingredient of Lipoflavonoid Plus.
For a decade and a half we have seen success in reducing Meniere’s symptoms using a specific dietary supplementation regimen. One of the most stubborn symptoms has always been tinnitus. Often, when Lipoflavonoid Plus has been added to this regimen, where tinnitus was still an issue, it seems to be successful.
Glutamate and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
Glutamate is a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter that is released by nerve cells in the brain. It is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells. It is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate nervous system.
When there is too much glutamate it can become an excitotoxin and leads to seizures and the death of brain cells. This can lead to anxiety, stress, depression, and many neurodegenerative conditions, one of which is tinnitus.
Hypoglycemia can cause excessive glutamate concentrations around neurons, as blood sugars are the primary glutamate removal method. Hypoglycemia has also been linked to Meniere’s disease.
Read more about the links between hypoglycemia and Meniere’s disease here: Hypoglycemia and Meniere’s disease
Studies show that stress can activate glutamate and alter the balance of glutamate and GABA. Stress is a known trigger for Meniere’s disease and most sufferers know that stress will increase tinnitus, ear pressure and the likelihood of a vertigo attack.
Nutrients that can help balance glutamate include the amino acids taurine, GABA, and l-theanine; the anti-oxidants NAC and green tea; vitamins B6 and D; the minerals magnesium and zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
GABA deficiency can cause increased glutamate.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) acts as the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS). Glutamate and GABA work in a cycle. Increasing GABA may help inhibit too much glutamate production and has been shown in studies to reduce tinnitus.
Importantly, GABA plays a role in mediating sound receptors in your brain.
Magnesium has been shown to be a very integral part of successful supplement regimens for Meniere’s and has been used in Mayo clinic studies for tinnitus.
According to clinicaltrial.gov, “Recent studies of both noise-induced hearing loss and idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss have suggested that Mg supplementation may lessen the severity of tinnitus in patients. Mg improved hearing recovery and lessened tinnitus in patients with idiopathic sudden hearing loss.”
In 2011 The International Tinnitus Journal published a study stating that, “patients with moderate to severe tinnitus achieved significant improvement when taking a daily dose of 532 milligrams of magnesium for three months.”
You can a read a more in depth article on Magnesium and Meniere’s disease by clicking the link below.
Studies have shown that supplementing with pycnogenol has helped reduce tinnitus in Meniere’s disease. A 2014 Japanese study conclude that, “Symptoms of Meniere’s disease, flow at cochlear level and tinnitus improved in Pycnogenol subjects in comparison with best management.”
Read more on pycnogenol here: PYCNOGENOL for Meniere’s Disease
The therapeutic values of gingko have been known for thousands of years. It is particularly well known for helping blood flow to the peripheral blood vessels of the body. Researchers believe that ginkgo improves cognitive function because it promotes good blood circulation in the brain and protects the brain from neuronal damage.
Supplementing with ginkgo has long been part of successful supplement regimens for Meniere’s disease.
Studies suggest it is useful for tinnitus. One such study in 2011, ‘Ginkgo biloba extract in the treatment of tinnitus a systematic review’ stated, “Of note, all trials using this extract consistently demonstrate its superiority over placebo.”
Resting and trying to sleep can be difficult with constant tinnitus. Masking the sound with background music, the sound of nature or other specific frequency sound therapy can help you relax and block out the noise in your ear.
The tinnitus masking music therapy below, at the time of writing, has the best reviews on youtube.
Massage to ease tinnitus and other Meniere’s symptoms
I personally found that often the correct massage helped ease pressure, dizziness and tinnitus. In my case, a Thai massage therapist in Japan would use a green balm. She would massage up from the neck, behind the affected ear over the top of the ear and down to the jaw, in long slow deep strokes.
It was an easy massage to replicate and I could do this myself and often ease pressure, and therefore the tinnitus quite quickly.**
Medical massage for tinnitus is available. Medical massage, targeting specific muscles of the neck, head, upper back, and jaw can release tension and reduce the intensity of tinnitus symptoms.
In the video below, this man uses a slightly different technique, but judging from the comments on youtube it may help a great deal.
**Note: I no longer suffer from Meniere’s disease or tinnitus. You can read my story below:
Acupuncture for tinnitus
Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for both Meniere’s in general and in reducing tinnitus. Studies have shown this to be the case and I can personally vouch for this. It is not a cure and will mean regular visits, but I found it to be very beneficial in temporarily easing pressure, reducing tinnitus and stopping dizziness.
One 2018 study cited in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine concluded that, “acupuncture was more effective in reducing the loudness and severity of tinnitus based on VAS and TSI and can be used as a good treatment option for chronic non-pulsatile tinnitus.”
It should be noted that with both massage and acupuncture, it can very much depend on the skill and understanding of the individual therapist. As in all professions, some are great at what they do while others, not so good.
Help other sufferers.
What are your experiences with Meniere’s and relief from tinnitus? Let us know in the comments box below or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24988090/