Tinnitus is the condition of ringing, buzzing or other auditory sensations in the ears, most often triggered by exposure to loud noise or a side effect of ear-wax blockage. However it can manifest as a prolonged or recurring experience due to age-related hearing loss, an injury to the ear or a circulatory disorder. The ringing sound is the dying of somatosensory neurons.
Tinnitus is also present in as much as 90 per cent of people suffering from the metabolic condition known as hyperinsulinemia (increased levels of insulin in the bloodstream), one of the precursors to type 2 diabetes. It can all present with fibromyalgia, menopause and stress related illnesses.
When it comes to herbal treatments there is nothing to stop the sensation or switch off the ringing – it just has to play itself out – but there are options to better improve circulation to the ear and support those somatosensory neurons. A tincture of black cohosh or gingko tea can be employed as a circulatory tonic beneficial for tinnitus. Hawthorn is also great at boosting peripheral circulation.
Treating the inner ear: To relieve some of the pressure and potential for episode, remove any excess wax and treat ear infections by putting a few drops of room temperature olive oil into the ear canal. The oil can be boosted by infusion with ‘ear herbs’ – mullein, garlic and mint are the traditional recommendations, but lavender, geranium and calendula are also suitable – all antimicrobial. The oil will gently melt any excess wax and allow it to seep out over the next few hours and the medicated oil will treat infections.
Foods and supplements with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) are worth considering. Amongst other things Gla is metabolised in the body to formdihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA), a vital component in the production of prostaglandin E1. That’s the hormone-like chemical active in immune-system response, inflammation control and stable blood pressure – all actions helpful to tinnitus.
DGLA also prevents platelets from sticking together, improves blood flow and strengthens blood vessel tone – even more good news for tinnitus. The highest source of GLA is borage oil, followed by blackcurrant oil and then evening primrose oil.
Borage oil can be up to five times more potent than evening primrose oil. The issue with borage oil is that cold-pressed home-produced oils can contain amabiline and other unsaturated pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are not good for the liver at all – but store-bought oil is standardised and safe.
The diet connection; If you like to get your healing via the Kitchen then Ginger can address the dizziness that sometimes accompanies tinnitus and also improves natural defences against the underlying conditions that contribute to ringing in the ears. Sesame seeds have a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to address tinnitus.
Reducing salt intake can help. Excess salt increases blood pressure and restricts blood vessels – including in the ear canal. Avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG), which metabolises in the body to become an excitatory neuro-transmitter. It triggers neurons to keep firing until they deplete and die off – including neurons that line and facilitate the auditory pathway. Other flavour enhancers, notably artificial sweeteners, can act likewise.
Cut out the saturated and trans-fats that reduce blood flow and opt for unsaturated fats (vegetable, nut and fish sources), which can help increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and diminish pain perception.
Other options; A white noise app can help regulate sleep patterns disturbed by tinnitus and alleviate ringing as it happens. Mindfulness exercises can help you dial down stress and diminish the episodes of tinnitus.
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