Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Introduction

Chronic tinnitus is rightly regarded as a tough problem in medicine and there is no one treatment that will always help it any more than there is always one factor causing it. That said, the following approaches have worked very well for some people and should be considered as options.

As there are several treatment options, each of the following sections starts with some suggestions as to how you might know whether this was the area you needed to direct your attention towards and, if so, what might help. Then, near the end, the section called 'tuning in' describes a further process that may help so long as you have a rather open mind to giving it a try!

Circulation matters

Adequate blood flow through the tiny tubes in the middle ear and the inner ear is crucial for everything to work properly and major causes of tinnitus are the various ways in which that circulation can be impaired.

The following clues suggest that circulation matters are causing or contributing to your tinnitus

a) the tinnitus is worse when you get cold
b) the tinnitus is slowly worsening with age rather than from a specific hearing damage
c) in colder weather, you suffer from sore joints or markedly cold hands and feet

If you will attempt to improve your blood circulation to see if it will help your tinnitus then the following are some of the safest and most reliable natural allies to help you do so:

Hawthorn

One of the most reliable of all tonics to improve heart function and blood flow everywhere in the body is the herb Hawthorn. It has been proven beyond any possible doubt to strengthen the heart muscle whilst increasing blood flow through the heart, to learn more about this exceptional ally read here

Cayenne

The plus to Hawthorn is its safety and reliability, the minus is that it is a rather slow-acting medicine so, if circulation matters are what you think may need to be worked on and you need to know if you are on the right track within a few weeks rather than months, it may be helpful to try to speed the process by getting and using capsules of the potent circulatory stimulant Cayenne

Ideally, the way to get the best support from Cayenne is to build it up to a dose that you can feel that is strong enough to give a palpable sense of increased heat and improved circulation but not too strong that you feel uncomfortably overheated. Read more about Cayenne and how to use it here


Cayenne capsules

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Ginkgo biloba

One further herbal treatment with the potential to significantly improve blood flow around the body and into the ear is Ginkgo biloba. Not as slow-acting as Hawthorn but also nowhere near as fast to feel as Cayenne, Ginkgo may need at least a month at a reasonable dosage to ascertain if it is going to help the problem. This is a herb with numerous modern studies showing how it effectively improves blood circulation and reduces blood stickiness, more here

In practice, and especially if the condition is quite bad, there is no reason not to use the Hawthorn, Cayenne and Ginkgo all at the same time. If things to do not get better in a timely manner then at least you have given it a good shot and don't need to wonder if doing more might have worked better.

However, if the condition clearly improves then you now have the happy problem of not knowing if all 3 herbs were needed or if you can safely drop one or two of them without losing any progress or getting any worse.

If it turns out that you need to stay on one or more of them to stay well then don't hesitate. You will never get sick from using these herbs and it won't just be your inner ear that will be benefiting from the improved blood flow.


Crataegus monogyna (Hawthorn)

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Neck Problems

Some people with tinnitus have, at the root of the problem or as a major contributor to it, a chronic dislocation (also called a subluxation) of their neck vertebra. Tight or twisted muscles in the neck restrict blood and nerve flow to and from the ear and some signs that this may be a key area to give attention to are:

a) pain or stiffness in the neck and/or frontal headaches
b) worsening tinnitus when your neck or shoulders become stiff or sore
c) some relief to the tinnitus after neck and shoulder massage or relaxation in general

Back and neck problems are not something that you should think is out of the purview of herbal medicine to help, more on that here. Further to this, you may be wise to find a good 'hands-on' practitioner and have at least 2 or 3 sessions with them to see if it will significantly help your tinnitus.

Finding a good practitioner

A good physical therapist could come from any field -- chiropractic, osteopathy, massage etc. but unless you already know one with an excellent reputation you may have to ask and look around to find the best person for you. Most of the principles written about above in the link on 'how to find a good herbalist' are just as useful when applied to other fields of medicine - that link again is here

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Chronic sinus infections

Chronic infections in the sinuses are more common than people realise and for some they can cause tinnitus through swelling of the eustachian tube that pushes into the middle ear and also through poor drainage of the wastes that are always a part of chronic infections.

Signs that this may be a key issue include

a) tender, palpably warm tissues around your nose and/or above or below your eyes
b) recurrent, restricted breathing through the nose
c) the tinnitus is worse when the sinuses are more blocked and vice versa when better

Treating a chronic sinus infection successfully, so you can tell if it was causing or contributing to the tinnitus, may not be a simple matter and may take some time and dedicated effort, but it is certainly achievable. Two approaches have been seen to be particularly helpful in this area

Cleaning out the sinus passageways

Most chronic sinus infections are caused by fungi so just taking antibiotics will do you more harm than good in the long run. One of the best ways to get on top of a chronic sinus infection, especially if it is being caused by a fungus, is to do a daily rinse of the sinus passageways with a nose-pipe, or neti-pot. These are readily available online and will have instructions on how to use them along with a recommendation to use salt, and possibly baking soda.

So long as you are able to obtain a very small amount of these herbal extracts from a reputable source, you should also find that putting just one or two or three drops of herbs such as Golden Seal or Myrrh into the wash can go a long way to ridding your body of the kinds of stubborn infections that can get lodged in the sinuses.

The regular practice of steam inhalations has also been seen to help many people with chronic sinus infections, this process and what to use to make it effective, is described in detail here

If you are prone to getting infections in general, or notice that when you get a cut or sore that it takes a long time to heal, then consider that you will probably have to build up your immune health in general to truly get on top of this problem, more info in general on immune health here


Olbas & Eucalyptus oils for steam inhalations

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Ruling out food allergy or intolerance

Only some people who suffer from tinnitus will have food allergies or intolerances but it must be considered as a strong possibility if there is any earlier history of eczema or asthma. Also note that if you frequently suffer from a bloated, uncomfortable belly or have a lot of allergic 'shiners', i.e. dark rings under your eyes, that you should also consider food allergies or intolerances as being a possible issue

It can be reported that some pepole with quite bad tinnitus have said that it has cleared up or improved when they detected and removed a long-standing food allergy or intolerance. This may be because chronic inflammation created by intolerance was causing swelling into the middle ear, or perhaps because a healthier immune system in the absence of allergies was finally able to resolve a chronic sinus or middle-ear infection. In any case, if you need to look further into this area, then food allergy or intolerance is a subject that needs a careful approach to accurately diagnosis and treat, more here

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Nervous system health

Everyone with bad tinnitus gets their nerves affected by it. In fact, any kind of problem in the head tends to deeply disrupt a person's peace of mind!

So, tinnitus causes stress, but does stress cause tinnitus?

There is only one person who knows the answer to that question so, if you yourself feel, or know within yourself, that your own levels of tension are the cause, or part of the cause, of your tinnitus then don't ignore it or think that it's too hard to do anything about but rather first let Nature help.

Two herbs in particular can be generally recommended here because a) they are very safe b) they relieve tension in the head and c) they work well for just about anyone.

They are Skullcap, more info here and Withania root, more here.

Further to using such allies as a first step, there are a number of practical tools that have been seen to reliably help heal nervous systems that have accumulated too much tension or anxiety, more here


Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap)

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Tuning in - introduction

This final suggestion is one that can be recommended to anyone with tinnitus to consider, but it is hard to explain it in just a few sentences and harder again to convey without being able to talk it through in person!

Everyone I have ever met with bad tinnitus says that it is significantly worse when they are resting or relaxing but that it usually at least somewhat fades away when they are busy or engaged with other activities.

What is happening here is that the cause, whatever it might be, that has created the tinnitus in the first place has not changed, but our level of attention to it varies greatly according to what else we have going on. Understanding this, and understanding how the brain works, we can apply a strategy that alters our perception of the tinnitus in a different way, when we need it the most.

In a nutshell, instead of needing distraction from it to get any respite, we can tune our attention into it and, by doing so, our brains can learn how to process the signal in a different way.

At first this will all seem terribly counter-intuitive to someone suffering from bad tinnitus and, once you realise what I am suggesting you to do, you would be forgiven for thinking 'easy for him to say, he doesn't know what it's like'.

As it happens I do, and that is why I am offering this suggestion to you, because the 'tuning in' thing is what I found could cure my own tinnitus better than anything. Moreover, whenever it comes back, which it does from time to time, I continue to find that it keeps working, and quickly too.

Of course, I realise that a sample of 'one' is never going to be good evidence for what might help others but, having been doing this work for quite some time now, a good number of people afflicted with tinnitus have also benefited from this approach, so I know for sure that it can help others too...

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The ‘tuning in’ process

Firstly, you need to get comfortable and relax your body and your breathing. This part is not meant to be hard but for many people it is actually very hard to relax -- especially if they have good reason to be tense! It may help you to get started in this regard to listen to one or more the relaxation commentaries put up here

After beginning to relax, the next step is to 'tune into' the tinnitus. Simply focus your attention on that exact same sound (or sounds) that have been with you for however long it's been.

Of course you won’t like it at first and you will probably want to stop soon after you start. Don’t stop, it will get easier with time but you have to get through that first hurdle of the stress-response, the 'fight or flight' reaction that sends off alarm bells in your brain and actually makes the tinnitus louder or more discomforting when you first give it your attention.

So, at first yes it will feel like you are making the tinnitus worse and you just have to expect to feel that way and to accept it too, for the moment at least.

Your brain is giving more of its attention to the sound so at first it is going to sound louder, or more piercing, or more unpleasant...

Try not to panic but if you do get caught up in thoughts about how much you don’t like it, how much you want to get rid of it etc. just let those thoughts come and go too. They will likely be very familiar thoughts because your brain has been hard-wired to have a very negative response to sensations that come from the tinnitus. This is a key point to understand, you are going to de-activate the alarm but in order to do that you have to get close to it!

Let the thoughts and feelings about the tinnitus, and anything else for that matter, just come and go. Keep listening, passively and attentively. You aren't trying to do anything, you are just listenening, and for this moment and this moment only, you are accepting and not resisting it at all.

This truly does get easier with practice but, in the beginning, you just have to do it. At some point it will quite suddenly start to feel better, in which case watch carefully because whilst it may well recede away and stay away but it may suddenly come back too!

If that happens, again tune in to the sound or sounds, simply observe the sound and your reaction to it. Keep 'watching and listening' and eventually you will see how the tinnitus softens and fades. Your brain is releasing the intensity of the negative reaction to the sensation of tinnitus and so, by processing the signal, you simply don't get anywhere near as much of it...

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How does it work?

It's hard to explain the 'how' of this process. The analogy to the alarm bell ringing is that you have to go close to in order to see that there is no real danger, so that it can now turn off, kind of explains it, somewhat...

There is a tremendous amount of research going into brain function in recent years that show we can literally 're-wire' our brains to change our perception to all kinds of things, including distressing thoughts, feelings, smells, images... and sounds.

You can be certain that each time you do this exercise and stay with the process until the tinnitus recedes and you relax with it instead of tensing against it you are will effectively be re-wiring your brain -- you also have to know that the longer you have had tinnitus and the more stress you have built up around it the longer that re-wiring is going to need to work -- but everything gets better with practice, including this.

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

There is a brief introduction to the subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd