Tinnitus is defined as a phantom auditory perception. This means a noise that someone hears inside his ears or head when that noise does not exist externally. It’s also known as ear ringing, ringing in the ears, and head noises. The word tinnitus is derived from the Latin word ‘tinnire” which means “ringing.” It’s estimated that between 10% and 20% of adults over the age of 50 experience tinnitus. Of these, approximately 25% report that they suffer. Suffering means that the noise in their ears or head interferes with their normal activities, such as sleep, the ability to concentrate, mood changes, the ability to perform their usual activities. The remaining 75% gradually develop a habit of consciously ignoring their noise so that it does not interfere with their lives. This habit state is known as habituation.
Tinnitus treatment has ranged from simple home remedies such as instilling drops of warm oil into the ear canals to radical surgery. Even today, suggested tinnitus treatment often includes specific herbs, vitamins, bioflavonoids, exercise, dietary modifications, meditation, Yoga, sound recordings, making sounds, and electrical-stimulation devices, While exercise and a proper diet are important components of a healthful lifestyle, none of these so-called “treatments” has proven effective to eliminate the noise of tinnitus.
Why do you suppose so many treatments existed for pneumonia or syphilis before the discovery of penicillin? Because none of them worked. When penicillin proved to be so effective, the ineffective treatments disappeared. Most tinnitus treatments today are similar-many claims exist, desperate tinnitus sufferers rush to try them, but they don’t work. One reason is that there are many different causes of tinnitus.
Tinnitus cures are sometimes reported where the noise completely goes away; however the cause of tinnitus in these instances is very significant. For example, aspirin and numerous prescription medications can cause ear ringing. When the offending medications are discontinued, the ringing in the ears typically goes away. Eliminating neuro-toxic substances from food can also eliminate the noise. Substances such as MSG and aspartame are frequent offenders.
It’s extremely important for anyone who experiences only one ringing ear to undergo a thorough examination by an ear specialist. A benign growth on the acoustic nerve inside the skull typically presents with the symptoms of ringing in one ear, hearing loss in that ear, and vertigo. Called an acoustic neuroma, such a growth often requires surgical removal.
Endolymphatic Hydrops is a condition caused by an increased fluid and pressure within the boney compartment of the inner ear. This increased pressure also causes the same three symptoms listed above-tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo. This symptom triad was described in 1861 by Dr Prosper Meniere, and is often called Meniere’s Disease. One tinnitus treatment in the past included surgery to relieve the pressure within the inner ear. Doctors today have discovered that many instances of Endolymphatic Hydrops are secondary to food sensitivity-especially to wheat. Corn, dairy, and soy sensitivities have also been implicated.
Our hearing mechanism is designed to receive, process, and transmit sound vibrations to the brain for interpretation. Hearing is one of our five primary senses that inform us of conditions in our immediate environment. In the absence of external sound, our hearing cells become super-sensitive and literally search for sound. When not receiving an external stimulus, these cells may pick up the normal energy flow between adjacent brain cells and interpret this as sound. As evidence of this phenomenon, when placed in a totally silent room for five minutes, 95% of adults with normal hearing report the onset of tinnitus. Tinnitus treatment in this instance simply requires reintroducing normal sounds into each individual’s environment.
Any type of hearing loss can cause ringing in the ears. One common cause of tinnitus follows exposure to loud noises-called acoustic trauma. When the noise is loud enough and the resulting damage to delicate inner ear nerve cells is sufficient, hearing loss and accompanying ear ringing may also be permanent. Prevention is far better than any treatment for this condition. Treatment requires an understanding of what generates the associated suffering that accompanies tinnitus.
The conscious mind is bombarded constantly by many thousands of stimuli from our environment. To avoid sensory overload, it separates those that are considered threatening to survival from those that are non-threatening, or relatively unimportant. Attention is then focused on the more important stimuli, and the others are largely ignored. In regard to the noise of tinnitus, any sound determined to be non-threatening will automatically be ignored by the conscious mind.
Fear is the key point that determines what sounds can be ignored. It is impossible to ignore any stimulus that causes a fear response. Tinnitus-especially near the time of onset–can certainly cause us to feel fear. Thus, an essential component of any effective tinnitus treatment must include the removal of fear from the sound of tinnitus. Regardless of its specific cause, the conscious mind will not be able to habituate the noise of tinnitus until the associated fear is totally removed.