Tinnitus is not a disease, and is very rarely a symptom of a serious medical problem. But it can drive a person downright crazy. Someone suffering from tinnitus might experience a high pitch buzzing sound, the whooshing of water, or a feeling of one or both ears being blocked. Michelangelo, a tinnitus sufferer, wrote in his memoirs that he was "plagued by the incessant chirping of crickets."
Symptoms may be constant or they may come and go but typically it's worse at night which can compromise sleep. Most long term sufferers have seen an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat doctor) and sometimes their tinnitus is the result of structural damage to the inner ear. Others may be experiencing this condition as a result of a medication they're on, a nutrient deficiency, or some other underlying cause. That's where Chinese Medicine comes in.
Chinese Medicine for Tinnitus
Chinese Medicine not only treats the symptoms of tinnitus, but it treats the root of what's causing it. This can be more helpful than just turning on some white noise at bedtime to be able to catch some zzz's, although this could be a big help in getting some rest. Your acupuncturist will look at the overall picture of your health and lifestyle and treat you accordingly based on a pattern of imbalance in your body. In addition to acupuncture, we'll often give you some nutritional advice and maybe prescribe some herbal medicine to help get things back in balance.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, no fewer than three Meridians (energetic pathways; similar to neurological pathways) go through the ear’s anatomy. These meridians connect to other areas of the body, so don't be surprised if we start putting needles in your arm to treat a problem with your ear. By using these acupuncture points, we've found where a blockage is happening and are working to free up that passageway so that you don't have to hear that annoying buzzing sound or whooshing, chirping, grinding, etc. You will probably need a series of treatments to eliminate the problem, but chances are, you'll start seeing improvement within the first couple of sessions. We'll have you monitor changes in the intensity and frequency of of your tinnitus as you go along.
Other Recommendations for Treating Tinnitus
Some sufferers have found that taking Ginko biloba can help in reducing symptoms. Gingko biloba is an herbal medicine which enhances blood flow to the periphery (edges of the body), in particular to the head and brain. If your tinnitus is due to circulatory problems, Gingko is likely to help, otherwise it will merely improve your memory. Take 240 mg of a standardized Gingko (in capsule form) daily, ideally in divided doses. The product should claim to contain 24% gingkolisides or gingko heterosides. You might notice your thinking is sharper within 3 to 10 days. Relief from tinnitus will take longer; give it 6 weeks. Once relief is achieved, you can lower the dose maintenance levels of 40-60 mg daily.
Cranial Sacral Therapy (CST)
A quiet, non-force, hands-on therapy designed to improve the flow of fluid (cerebral spinal fluid) around the brain and along the spinal column. In the hands of a skilled therapist, symptoms may resolve quickly depending on the cause of your tinnitus. If you live in the Austin area, I have a great contact for you if you want to try this modality out. I have personally experienced her skills as a massage therapist and CST practitioner and I highly recommend.
Get Your Blood Pressure Checked
Many people with high blood pressure experience tinnitus. See your doctor to get this checked out. You may need medication to help control it. If you're blood pressure is slightly high, but doesn't require medication, acupuncture can help lower it as well. Also, get adequate exercise to help with blood circulation.
Reduce Stress and Fatigue
Stress and fatigue can exacerbate tinnitus. Many of the patients I've seen who experience tinnitus also suffer from TMJ or tightness of the shoulders, neck, and occipital region. This is usually caused by, you guessed it, stress. Find a way that works for you to keep stress levels down, whether it be acupuncture, exercise, massage, meditation, or seeing a therapist on the reg. A reduction in stress will also help you sleep better at night so that you avoid running out of steam.
Avoid Loud Noises
Unfortunately many of the patients I've treated for tinnitus are musicians. Long term exposure to loud noise will damage the inner ear. If you know you're going to be exposed, wear some ear plugs, no matter what your job is. I know this isn't always ideal, but it is important. If you wear ear buds to listen to music, keep it at a reasonable level. Loud noise can cause and exacerbate tinnitus.
Hope this article has been helpful to anyone experiencing this condition. Please contact me if you live in the Austin area and would like to explore acupuncture for treatment.