Do you suffer from tinnitus?
The good news is that that tinnitus isn’t a disease that you can contract, or is life-threatening. The bad news is that this auditory disturbance can sound like buzzing, humming, ocean waves rolling or even roaring — that nobody else can hear but you. It often is fairly constant, and it can be debilitating if the condition is severe. At the least, the lack of quality sleep, anxiety and problems with concentration will tend to wear on anyone suffering from tinnitus. Michelangelo himself wrote in his memoirs that he was “plagued by the incessant chirping of crickets.” So obviously you can go on to create masterpieces even while suffering from it, (Beethoven also had it) but it certainly is not easy to live with.
Tinnitus is not completely understood but studies have suggested it stems from hyperactive neurological activity in cells used for hearing sensitivity, pitch, etc. This is sometimes brought on by a sudden event where someone was exposed to a loud or piercing sound like an explosion. Or has sustained consistent exposure to noise, say, if you work in a factory or listen to music at a very high volume (those ear bud headphones…tucked in deep and turned up loud…). Other cases are tied to some type of head or neck trauma. Some tinnitus is due to circulatory problems, including low blood volume, also hypertension, thyroid problems, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. This all means that it’s actually a pretty common problem, and an estimated 30 million Americans suffer from it.
The very best approach to tinnitus, as with any medical problem, is prevention (for example, ear plugs when in high decibel situations, avoiding dancing directly in front of the speakers turned up to 11 at a concert). People can also experience tinnitus as a reaction to medications. Prescription drugs, even over-the-counter drugs, can be a major offender. The primary culprits are aspartame (a/k/a NutraSweet), aspirin, anti-depressants, anti-seizure drugs, anti-anxiety medications, steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics and pain killers. If you immediately get tinnitus or it worsens when you take anything off of this list, then it’s perhaps best to avoid that drug. Fatigue also may make tinnitus worse.
If you suffer from tinnitus, it is important that you don’t ignore it. Long-standing, or chronic tinnitus, of longer than 6 months duration, is difficult to treat. It’s a good idea to have a medical examination with special attention given to factors such as blood pressure, kidney function, drug intake, diet and allergies. Sometimes, tinnitus can be mistaken for more treatable ear problems such as a build up or blockage of wax in the ears. Your hearing should be evaluated by an audiologist. The audiologist will determine if there is a need to see a specialist, such as an ear, nose and throat physician.
Acupuncture can bring significant relief to those who suffer from tinnitus, and is certainly an avenue to explore before going down Surgery Road. Acupuncture addresses tinnitus by restoring balance to the acupuncture channels associated with the inner ear in a safe and gentle way, without side effects. It can yield immediate relief. Relief of the tinnitus will vary with each patient and their level of discomfort. Acupuncture also helps to restore mental focus and relieve anxiety, and also helps to resolve some of the symptoms that accompany tinnitus. As tinnitus can manifest itself in different ways, an acupuncture regimen that is customized to the individual needs of the patient can have a major and lasting impact.
Acupuncture Today reports that although science still needs to validate the claims that acupuncture heals tinnitus, “…there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence showing that acupuncture may indeed be an effective way of treating tinnitus.” In my own 30 years of full-time practice, I have seen 30% of the serious cases clear up entirely, and the majority of the remaining patients report a marked improvement. It is my professional opinion that acupuncture effectively heals the neural channels of the ear.
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Photo: Woman on the Phone by Vera Kratochvil