Tinnitus • How to Keep an Open Mind Despite the Ringing




    Slow down there, angry mob…

    If you’re a fan of Stop the Ringing at our public Facebook page or our private Facebook Group, you might have already seen the letter below. I wrote it on another Facebook group page, in response to someone who posted what I took to be a very cynical dismissal of anything that purports to “cure” Tinnitus. His point was that T is incurable, there’s nothing you can do about it except ignore it and keep your hand over your wallet because everyone and their mother is trying to rip you off.

    Now, ordinarily I would just let this sort of thing slip by without giving it any of my precious time. But lately I’ve found myself shocked at the depth of the cynicism around Tinnitus.

    First, my response. And then I’ll dig in deeper, after the jump.

    (Name Removed) this is a well written post. And i can clearly see that you have nothing but the highest of intentions. However, I caution against the use of such absolute terms.

    I firmly believe that, when the smoke clears, the last 50 years or so will come to be known as The Dark Ages of Medicine, a time when we came to suffer from our absolute and unwavering faith in the scientific method. And a time when the primary focus of medicine was treating symptoms, not people.

    Why? Because sick people are a cash cow for doctors and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies (and their respective stockholders).

    Well people? Not so much.

    Oddly, it’s us, the general public, that seem to have the tightest stranglehold on that faith, to our own detriment.

    Meanwhile, some of the most revered institutions in the world are openly embracing the power of the human mind to heal our bodies. Not as a replacement for traditional medicine, but as a supplemental treatment.

    Consider, at the Program in Placebo Studies & Therapeutic Encounter (PiPS) at Harvard, they conducted a study on patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A control group was given no treatment, the other group was given fake pills, the label of which said, clearly “PLACEBO PILLS”. And they were told, directly, that they were taking placebos. Astonishingly, the group who took the pills reported a dramatic improvement in their symptoms, in spite of the fact that they were told they were taking fake meds. The improvement of the placebo group was so significant that it’s comparable to the results of such studies carried out with the best in real IBS drugs.

    If the placebo group reported dramatic improvements, in spite of the fact that they received no dosage of anything other than sugar, what is the mechanism of action? How does this play into the scientific method?

    Perhaps more importantly, how can we speak with such authority on what will and will not work, when we ourselves don’t know?

    Similar results have been demonstrated with Mindfulness meditation and Psoriasis. At the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, two groups of patients received identical light treatments but one group was also trained in Mindfulness techniques. The result? Those who practiced Mindfulness achieved results four times faster than those who did not.

    Mind you, this is not some dreadlocked hippy selling tinctures out of the back of a VW van. This is U Mass and Harvard we’re talking about.

    I could go on and on but I’ve got work to do. The long and short of it is this; Don’t let rigid thinking ruin your lives. Is there a “cure” for Tinnitus? Not that we’re aware of. But, to paraphrase the words of The Buddha, it’s not the Tinnitus that is causing your suffering, it’s your reaction to it.

    And you are not a prisoner to that reaction.

    Tinnitus is a Tricky Little Condition

    And, unfortunately, it’s one that is easily exploited for profit.

    Often, when someone is diagnosed with Tinnitus and their doctor tells them there’s nothing that can be done about it, a-googling they go. They find all sorts of “miracle cures” and buy a bottle of everything.

    Fast forward a few years and nothing has worked for them. In the process, they’ve become callous and cynical toward any and all products that make claims for relieving T.


    “A fool and his money are soon parted”

    This cynicism may be warranted, to a certain degree. But keep in mind that no one likes to feel like they’ve done something dumb. If they paid money for a product or system and didn’t see results, obviously it wasn’t any mistake on their part, oh no. It’s the evil scammers who tricked them out of their money, and anyone to follow, who are the root of the problem.

    Now, make no mistake, there are people out there who work very hard to separate us from our money. And exaggerated claims of “miracle cures” sure do have a way of moving products. I am not defending those people or their actions.

    Or Kanye West and his $120 (99 cent) t-shirt.

    Tinnitus is Subjective

    Yes, 90% of T is caused by damage to the stereocilia, the microscopic hairs that interpret vibration into electrical signals that the brain perceives as sound. If those hairs have been damaged, we don’t have a way to repair them.

    Let’s say you operated a jack hammer for thirty years and found that you came away with a nasty ringing in your ears. It’s not very likely that taking a magnesium or zinc supplement will offer you much relief, in spite of whatever the packaging and marketing may tell you.

    However, there is a small faction of people whose Tinnitus is the result of micronutrient deficiencies. When they cure those deficiencies, they most likely WILL find relief.

    Mr Jackhammer will go on record saying this product is a scam while others will claim miracles have just taken place. And no one is being played for a fool.

    Different causes, different outcomes…

    Now let’s return to our Facebook group. Someone new to the world of Tinnitus comes in and says they heard magnesium is possibly a way to reduce the suffering and should they have a go at it? Mr Jackhammer replies (in all caps, of course), “THIS IS JUST ANOTHER RIPOFF SCAMMER BABY-EATING SCUMDOG WHO WANTS TO STEAL YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!”.

    A seed has just been planted. That seed, if nourished, will grow into yet another callous, cynical and suspicious Tinnitus sufferer, utterly closed off to things that may well bring them relief.

    Then There’s the Doctors

    Another poison pill that gets bandied about is doctor’s advice. It goes something like this; “My doctor told me there’s nothing that can be done so if you seek solutions, well, that just proves how ignorant and gullible you are.”

    Let it be known, I have nothing against doctors. In fact, I’m quite happy they exist (though I am eternally suspicious of the “medical system”, on the whole).

    But don’t forget, doctors are people, just like you and me. They are not infallible. Have YOU ever given someone advice without a complete understanding of the subject at hand? Yeah, me too.

    What if twenty years ago your then-baby-doc was told, “Here’s Tinnitus. It’s a ringing in the ears. There’s nothing you can do about it. Moving on…”? And then you come in to the office and they say, “You have Tinnitus. It’s a ringing in the ears. There’s nothing you can do about it. Moving on…”.

    I don’t know about you but any time a doctor says something that black-and-white to me, I want a second opinion. And maybe even a third.

    What I’m not inclined to do is to use that information to smack down everything that has the potential to help someone, somewhere, maybe even me.


    So What Am I Supposed to Do?

    Open your mind…

    Don’t buy pills and supplements on a whim. Don’t believe the marketing blather and testimonials.

    Do your homework! Learn as much as you possibly can about the root causes of Tinnitus and play detective to cross-reference your own. Talk to doctors, get a boatload of tests, join support groups, become a total Tinnitus Pest. When you have a handle on your own Tinnitus, figure out how to treat it.

    And don’t believe the Negative Nellies who tell you to “just get over it”.

    nutrientsBy the way, it’s tough to test for things like zinc and magnesium deficiencies because so much of the stuff is bound up in our cells and not diluted in our blood. But if you’re feeling generally sluggish and any of the other myriad symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, consider a trial of one of the better supplements designed for Tinnitus. Or even a multi-vitamin, for crying out loud.

    (It’s believed that as many of 80% of people in the “developed world” are deficient in vital nutrients. These are the very building blocks of our cells and a shortage of them is suspected to lead to a whole host of awful maladies, Tinnitus being the least of your troubles. In short, you should probably be taking a nutrient supplement, regardless of Tinnitus.)

    If you’re Mr Jackhammer, you should also be supplementing with nutrients, but don’t expect it to take away the years of damage you have inflicted on your poor, sensitive ears. And don’t cry foul if you make the mistake of thinking it will, only to be disappointed.

    However, Mr Jackhammer, if you’re willing, there are some proven results you can accomplish with diet, exercise, stress reduction and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). But that takes work on your part. And most of us just want to pop a pill and have done with it.

    In the realm of CBT, the question is, “Do you deserve to feel relief from your suffering? If you do, what will it take for you to get there?”.

    And the answer is letting go of your shame and blame, releasing your stranglehold on suffering and moving toward acceptance.

    I firmly believe that Tinnitus can become your “special gift” and not your enemy, if you approach it with the right mindset.

    And, lest you think I’m some kind of super-evolved being who has come back from the mountain, I am nowhere near that perspective myself. But I’m working on it…


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