Q. Are there any dietary changes or nutritional supplements that can help relieve the ringing in my ears?
A. Possibly. Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. It affects about 10% of Americans, with an onset typically between ages 40 and 70.
Tinnitus can vary in intensity from an occasional awareness of background noise such as hissing, ringing, buzzing or clicking?in one or both ears’to a persistent noise that can disrupt sleep or lead to anxiety or depression.
What Causes the Ringing? Though poorly understood, there are several possible causes for tinnitus, including ear or sinus infections, buildup of ear wax, exposure to loud noises or chronic use of medications like aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?e.g. ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve)?or certain antibiotics?e.g. erythromycin, tetracycline?all of which can damage the inner ear.
?There is no single cause of tinnitus, so there is likely no single treatment,? explains Michael Seidman, M.D., otolaryngologist and medical director of the Tinnitus Center at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
What Might Help? Though most doctors will tell you there isn’t much you can do about the ringing in your ears??learn to live with it? is typical advice’some simple measures might help:
? Eliminate caffeine and reduce salt intake. Though reports are mostly anecdotal, too much caffeine may constrict blood flow to the ear, while excessive salt leads to fluid retention, including in the inner ear.
? Try Ginkgo biloba extract, approved for the treatment of tinnitus in Europe. It may improve blood flow, though research findings are mixed.
? Ensure an adequate intake of magnesium. A subclinical deficiency of magnesium might make you more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss, suggest several animal studies and one human trial. And hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand in hand. A multi or calcium supplement with magnesium can provide enough.
? Take a multi and B-complex supplement. Human and animal studies suggest a link between B12 deficiency and improper functioning of the auditory pathway. B vitamins work in concert, so take them together.
EN‘s Bottom Line. Tinnitus is notoriously tough to treat, so don’t expect it to disappear; even measures that work may bring only slight improvement. Moreover, ?what works for one person may not work for the next,? says Seidman. Other tinnitus treatments to try include biofeedback, relaxation training and acupuncture. Before self-treating, see your physician to rule out treatable causes for the ringing, such as a tumor or Meniere’s Disease. More information is available from the American Tinnitus Association at www.ata.org or (800) 634-8978.—Anastasia Schepers, M.S., R.D.