Your tinnitus can be as unique and individual as you are. For some patients, it sounds like a high-pitched ring. For others, it’s a hiss, whoosh, buzz or hum. Some people experience it in one ear, others in both. Others still only hear it occasionally, while, for some people, the noise never stops.
The same can be said about effective treatment options for tinnitus — they are unique to each and every patient.
You see, while tinnitus is bothersome enough on its own, it’s actually a symptom rather than an isolated medical condition. Tinnitus is a signal to you and your doctors that something else is going on in your body. That “something” could be anything from inner-ear damage, to stress, to ear wax, to blood vessel disorders, to a reaction to medication.
Because there are so many causes for tinnitus, there is no one cure. However, there are steps you can take to manage your tinnitus—and manage it naturally. Choosing to take an active role in your own care may help you feel more in control of your condition, and you may see symptoms significantly lessen or disappear altogether.
Before You Manage Your Tinnitus With Natural Remedies
If you develop tinnitus, before you try at-home remedies, make an appointment with your family doctor. They’ll help you determine what kind of tinnitus you have, whether it’s subjective (a sound only you can hear) or objective (in rare cases, a sound others can hear).
They will evaluate you to determine if you have other underlying medical conditions, and, in more severe cases, they may refer you to an audiologist or other specialist to discuss further testing and treatment options.
Once you have the all-clear from your doctor to try at-home remedies, try approaching your tinnitus as a detective might. Develop a curiosity about your tinnitus, what triggers it, what worsens it, and what makes it better.
Keep notes, and work through a process of elimination to see what helps and what hinders your search for relief. Over time, you may even come to appreciate your tinnitus, as it is often a signal that we need to slow down and take better care of ourselves.
Options for Treating Your Tinnitus Naturally
1. Cut out nicotine, caffeine and other stimulants. Stimulants are substances that increase activity in the body. They can excite your brain, your central nervous system or other systems at a cellular level. Because tinnitus can be caused by confused brain signaling and over-activity, stimulants can make the condition worse.
Nicotine, while also being a stimulant, may exacerbate your tinnitus by harming blood flow to the sensitive nerve cells that control your hearing. This can make the ringing in your ears sound louder. If you use tobacco, talk to your doctor about options for quitting. You may also want to reach out to your employer and your health insurance company, many of which offer free programs to help kick the habit for good.
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects everybody differently. Some people can have a coffee before bed and sleep like a baby, while others can only drink it in the morning or else risk a sleepless night. Try tracking your own caffeine intake and reactions. While there is little scientific evidence that shows caffeine worsens tinnitus in all patients, you may find it amps up your symptoms, and you may want to consider switching to decaf coffee and soda.
2. Improve your diet. Eating a balanced diet can significantly improve your tinnitus symptoms. Start by cutting back on processed and fast foods high in sodium. Salt can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure, both of which can make your tinnitus worse.
Then, seek out foods rich in vitamins and minerals, especially colorful fruits and vegetables. In particular, choose foods that are good sources of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, copper and selenium.
Why? Vitamin A is important for the health of ear membranes. Vitamins C and E have anti-oxidative qualities which can help protect cell membranes. Vitamin C enhances blood flow and can reduce inflammation. A vitamin B12 deficiency may elevate the levels of homocysteine in the body which can lead to a range of disorders including tinnitus and hearing loss. And appropriate levels of magnesium in the body may prevent the constriction of blood vessels, including the arteries connecting to the inner ear, and lessen the risk of tinnitus.
3. Develop an exercise routine that works for you. Stress is a major component of tinnitus. It’s a cause (major stressors can kick-start a tinnitus flare-up) and it’s a side effect (tinnitus itself is extremely stressful; patients report that their tinnitus heightens stress levels for themselves and, in turn, their loved ones, often leading to depression and anxiety).
Break the stress cycle. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins: chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood boosters. Endorphins also improve your quality of sleep, which can significantly reduce your stress levels.
If you are new to exercise, start small — just adding a daily walk to your routine is a great start. For an added stress-relieving bonus, consider exercises that incorporate a mediation component, like yoga, tai chi or qigong.
4. Consider herbal supplements. While supplements have not been tested and approved by the FDA for use in treating tinnitus, many patients testify that they have found relief from herbal remedies. Before you take any supplements, always check with your doctor, as some may interfere with other health conditions, pregnancy or breastfeeding, or may lead to serious interactions with your prescription medications.
Popular herbal remedies for tinnitus that can be found at most pharmacies include: