Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is when you hear a sound that has no external source. The most common sounds heard by those experiencing tinnitus are described as ringing, humming, buzzing, screeching, or cricket-like. It varies from person to person, can be constant or intermittent, can be heard in one or both ears, or even in the head. Tinnitus is usually caused by noise-induced hearing loss and can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or in the inner ear (cochlea). Other causes of tinnitus include:
- Sudden exposure to a loud sound resulting in acoustic trauma
- Earwax blocking the canal
- Age-related hearing loss
- Head injury
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Ototoxic drugs that have been known to damage the eardrum
It’s important to note that tinnitus is usually a symptom, not a disease, so the first step in reducing tinnitus is finding out what the underlying cause is and going from there.
An audiologist will usually diagnose you with tinnitus based on your symptoms, but will also try to find its cause to improve your chances of treating it effectively. Your audiologist will ask about your medical history and examine your ears, head, and neck to try and determine what’s happening. If necessary, your physician may also contribute to determining your diagnosis. The tests that may be performed can include:
- Hearing exam: A hearing test will examine what you can hear and compare results with what is considered normal for your age. This can help identify possible causes of tinnitus.
- Movement: Different movements may be able to highlight the cause of your tinnitus, especially if the tinnitus changes or worsens during a particular movement.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests like CT or MRI scans may help pinpoint the cause of the issue, depending on the suspected cause.
- Lab tests: These tests will check for anemia, thyroid problems, heart disease, or vitamin deficiencies.
The better your description of the sound you hear when experiencing tinnitus, the easier it will be for your doctor to determine its cause. In fact, some of the sounds you hear can help your doctor identify a possible underlying cause. For example:
- Clicking suggests there are muscle contractions in and around your ear that could be the cause of tinnitus. These contractions can start for no apparent reason, or could be related to certain neurological disorders, like multiple sclerosis.
- Pulsing, rushing, or humming is usually associated with blood vessel (vascular) causes, like high blood pressure. In this case, it will be important to pay attention to when you notice these sounds, like when you exercise or when you change positions from lying down to standing up.
- Low-pitched ringing usually points to there being ear canal blockages, Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder brought on by abnormal inner ear pressure, or stiff inner ear bones (otosclerosis), which usually runs in the family.
- High-pitched ringing is the most commonly heard tinnitus sound. The potential causes for this include loud noise exposure, hearing loss, or medication. If the high-pitched ringing is only happening in one ear and is continuous, it is most likely acoustic neuroma (a non-cancerous benign tumor on the cranial nerve).
Treating an underlying health condition
The first thing to remember is that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. This means the best way to treat it is by discovering the condition that is actually causing it, rather than just trying to eliminate the symptom. Because it could be a sign of a more serious disorder, it’s even more important to find the medical cause before moving forward with treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with tinnitus, your audiologist will work to eliminate the cause of it. For example, if you’re experiencing a low-pitched ringing in your ears, your doctor may start with an earwax removal to see if removing ear canal blockage works. Finding the treatment that works best for you is all about experimenting, so when one solution doesn’t work, it just means it’s time to try the next one!
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are different ways to help make tinnitus less uncomfortable and noticeable. One way could be to use over-the-counter sound generators that produce sounds like white noise or environmental sounds like ocean waves or rain sounds. This machine makes different environmental sounds that sound a little like static, and have been shown to effectively reduce tinnitus. This can be extra useful when trying to sleep.
Another treatment could be to use a combination of hearing aids and masking devices. It’s not completely clear why this works, but the general understanding is that hearing aids amplify background noises, making the tinnitus less obvious. A masking device produces a low-level white noise that helps block tinnitus. Together, they appear to help some tinnitus-sufferers find some relief. This could be because of the reduction in contrast between tinnitus and silence, or because of the new stimulation provided to the brain.
So far, no medication or herbal supplement has been clinically proven to improve tinnitus symptoms. Seeing as tinnitus can often lead to anxiety or depression, some patients have found success taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, but more research is needed. Some medications can have undesirable side effects, and could even be habit-forming, so it’s important to think through your options before getting a prescription. Talk to your audiologist about treatment options, and together you can come up with a plan that’s just right for you.
How to Cure Tinnitus Naturally
Lifestyle and home remedies
While there is no cure for tinnitus, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few lifestyle choices to improve your quality of life. Here are a few that we recommend:
- Reduce your exposure to extremely loud noises
- Avoid total silence
- Decrease your salt intake
- Monitor your blood pressure
- Avoid/decrease your intake of stimulants, like caffeine and nicotine
- Exercise regularly
- Decrease stress levels: try meditating, going on walks, or practicing mindfulness.
- Educate yourself on tinnitus so you are always up to date on the latest breakthroughs
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink
Try some – or a combination – of these tips to see what works for you. Hopefully, these simple lifestyle changes will have a lasting impact on your tinnitus and quality of life.
Alternative medicine options may help to reduce the impacts of tinnitus. The most common alternative therapies are:
- Acupuncture: Thin needles are inserted into your skin, in different targeted zones, to help clear any blockages disrupting your Qi (energy).
- Ginkgo biloba: Though not proven, Ginkgo biloba is thought to increase cochlear and cerebral blood flow, thereby reducing tinnitus.
- Melatonin: Though not proven, melatonin is believed to produce antioxidative properties that help with sleep and reduce tinnitus.
- Zinc supplements: Some believe that tinnitus can be caused by low zinc levels and that supplementing will help ease discomfort.
How to Cure Tinnitus Naturally: Coping and Support
Though not a cure, we certainly encourage all patients suffering from tinnitus to seek counseling, join a support group, and to keep educating themselves on the condition. Behavioral therapy, which focuses on the patient’s emotions surrounding tinnitus, is one of the most established and effective treatments available. Focusing on mental health has consistently been shown to reduce tinnitus-related stress, depression, and anxiety.
Other patients have found success by joining support groups and sharing their experiences with others who can relate. There are a variety of groups that meet in person or virtually, as well as different forums online. We recommend finding a group that has a physician, audiologist, or qualified mental health professional as a facilitator.
Of course, the more you learn about tinnitus, the better equipped you are to find solutions that will help you, while keeping up to date on the latest discoveries.
How to Cure Tinnitus Naturally vs. Medically
Share your insights about curing tinnitus naturally, you can also include journal or research excerpts to strengthen the drive or need to treat tinnitus medically by seeing an audiologist or health care professional
Though there is no clinical evidence supporting the use of natural treatment against tinnitus, that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective for some individuals who are looking for relief. The first line of defense should be to consult an audiologist to develop the best treatment plan for you, but some natural remedies could also be of help!
Sound Therapy helps provide sound stimulation that can help mitigate the effects of tinnitus and provide sound stability with masking effects.
Other possible tinnitus treatments include tinnitus retraining therapy, progressive tinnitus management, white noise/masking noise therapy, hearing/tinnitus mobile apps, hearing aids, and various others. These options can be highly effective when directed by an audiologist or other allied health care professional.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation has been shown to be helpful in reducing tinnitus. The exercise works by focusing on a single part of your body for eight seconds and then moving onto the next one. The idea is to concentrate on every body part from head to toe while breathing slowly.
Pranayama Breathing Exercises are used to strengthen the connection between your body and mind. According to research, pranayama can promote relaxation and mindfulness. It’s also proven to support multiple aspects of physical health, including lung function, blood pressure, and brain function. Bhramari Pranayama (also known as “bumblebee breath”) combines a relaxing posture and a process of producing a humming sound during exhalation, while simultaneously pressing on closed eyelids. Nadi Shodhana (also known as “alternate nostril breathing”) helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. These exercises have been reported to reduce the loudness of tinnitus.
Yoga is believed to provide patients with a better sense of control of their tinnitus, improved sleep, and enhanced quality of life. Since tinnitus can be caused by poor circulation, some poses are known to help improve circulation and reduce tinnitus symptoms, such as:
- Trikonasana (triangle pose)
- Padangusthasana (hand to big toe pose)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
- Ustrasana (camel pose)
- Gomukhasana (cow face pose)
- Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
- Viparita Karani (legs up the wall)
- Matsyasana (fish pose)
- Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) for deep relaxation
Working with a trained yoga teacher can help to assure that any physical limitations you may have can be addressed and that you are able to practice postures safely and effectively.