Fill in the blank: “If you are what you eat, then I’m _________.”
How did you respond? Sweet? Spicy? Bland? As healthy as a bag of leftover Halloween candy?
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, you may want to work to change your response to “balanced.” That’s because while there is no definite cure for tinnitus, studies show that eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet complete with the right vitamins and minerals, can help prevent and control tinnitus symptoms. Which vitamins should you be incorporating into your daily diet to protect your hearing? Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is when you hear sound that doesn’t have an external source. Patients usually experience tinnitus as a constant ringing in the ears, but it can also be a buzzing, humming, roaring, shrieking or the sound of your own heartbeat. Tinnitus symptoms can be low-pitched or high-pitched, the volume can vary and patients can experience it in one or both ears. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but rather a condition. It’s a symptom of something else going on in your body like damage to the inner ear due to noise-induced hearing loss or even stress. And while there is no prescription medication available as a treatment option for tinnitus, one of the most effective ways to prevent and manage tinnitus is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. That includes avoiding tobacco and caffeine, getting enough sleep and exercise and eating a healthy diet complete with vitamins that support your hearing health.
Which Vitamins Help with Tinnitus, and What Foods Should I Eat to Get Them?
There are several vitamins that have been shown to support ear health and prevent or diminish tinnitus symptoms. You can get these vitamins by adjusting your diet or by adding daily supplements to your routine. Note: before you start taking any supplements, always check with your personal doctor to avoid health complications or interactions with prescription medications.
Vitamins that can help tinnitus sufferers include:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): vitamin B1 (or thiamine) may help with tinnitus possibly by helping to stabilize the nervous system, especially in the inner ear. Tinnitus patients who have reported success with this vitamin generally use 100 to 500 mg a day.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin, niacinamide, nicotinic acid): vitamin B3 (or niacin) is used by the body to properly break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It also supports circulation, healthy skin and the central nervous system. While there is no clinical proof of the effectiveness of niacin for treating symptoms of tinnitus, numerous patients have supplied anecdotal evidence saying they responded well to niacin supplements. Most report following a regimen of 50 mg twice daily.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): vitamin B6 helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and in the production of hormones, red blood cells and enzymes. Vitamin B6 is also required for the production of serotonin that controls our moods, appetite, sleep patterns and sensitivity to pain. Some patients have found help with their tinnitus symptoms by taking 50 mg of B6 three times a day.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin, cyanocobalamin): vitamin B12 creates new red blood cells and improves the flow of blood to the ears. Studies have shown a high occurrence of B12 deficiency in patients with chronic tinnitus symptoms with as many as 47% showing lower-than-average levels. This deficiency was even more severe in patients who had developed tinnitus from noise exposure. Foods high in B12 include lean meats, dairy and eggs. Clams, liver and oily fish like salmon, trout and tuna are especially high in this nutrient. Patients who have reported success from taking a B12 supplement often use a daily dose of 1000 mcg.
- Folic acid (folate): folic acid is an antioxidant in the B-complex family that helps reduce the number of damage-causing free radicals in the body and prevents hearing loss. Like vitamin B12, folic acid also helps create new blood cells and improve blood flow to the ears. Good food sources for folic acid include leafy greens like spinach and romaine lettuce, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, black beans and nuts. Patient who take folic acid supplements report using between 400 to 800 mcg per day with results occurring after two to four months.
- Ginkgo biloba: ginkgo biloba is frequently recommended as a herbal supplement for tinnitus relief. It is said to help increase blood circulation, support brain function and improve memory. Patients report it may take two to three months to see results.
- Zinc: research shows that low serum zinc levels are common in people with tinnitus, and that some patients can see a lessening of their symptoms with a zinc supplement—specifically by taking 34-68 mg a day for two weeks. You can also find zinc in foods including oysters, crab, beef, liver, dairy products, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans and dark chocolate.
Magnesium: some studies have shown that in tinnitus patients when levels of magnesium in the inner ear fluid is increased, symptoms decrease. However, once the magnesium levels in the inner ear fluid become deficient again, the symptoms return. Magnesium occurs naturally in many foods including dark leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale. Nuts like almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews and pine nuts, Seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. It’s also found in beans, avocados, bananas, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, fish and eggs. You can also take a magnesium supplement like Natural Calm which can be found at grocery stores and health food stores. Note: take extra precaution with magnesium supplementation as some people can experience a rare but serious allergic reaction.