Imagine a constant ringing, hissing, or clicking in your ears. If you are among the one third of Americans with tinnitus, these sound effects can lasts for months, or even years. Many cases of tinnitus follow eardrum damage, which can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises. Even routinely cranking up the volume on your iPod can lead to tinnitus. Certain medications like steroids, antidepressants, antihistamines, and some antibiotics and painkillers can also trigger a bout with tinnitus. Luckily, for most people, it isn’t a permanent or serious condition.
What you eat can impact tinnitus. People suffering from the disorder report that eliminating caffeine and reducing salt intake can help. Although the 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. Learning what your food allergies and intolerances are may help by reducing inflammation in the sinuses, which can help the middle ear pressure. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough dietary magnesium. Several studies suggest that a subclinical deficiency of magnesium might make you more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts and green leafy vegetables.
Taking care to avoid loud noise is the most important factor in preventing tinnitus. However, if you already suffer from the condition, you may be able to “mask” the sound in your ears. Masking involves the use of a low-level white noise machine that blocks out the sound created by the tinnitus. This “white noise” sound effectively creates a sense of calm, making it easier to concentrate, relax, and sleep.
Ginkgo biloba: may help by bringing extra blood flow to the eighth cranial nerve, which controls turning mechanical sound waves into audible nerve impulses. Look for a ginkgo supplement that is standardized to contain 24 percent flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones. Typical dosage: 240 mg per day.
Vinpocetine: is another herbal supplement that can quiet the noise within especially if the tinnitus is caused by a high volume trauma. In one study, vinpocetine supplements taken within one week of trauma relieved the symptoms in half the subjects. Even in people with older injuries, vinpocetine eased the severity of the ringing and improved hearing in more than two-thirds of cases. Typical dosage: 10 mg three times a day taken with food for best absorption.
Vitamin B-12: deficiency can negatively impact the auditory pathway. In one study of 113 soldiers, 47 percent of those with tinnitus were also lacking in vitamin B-12. Have your doctor test your levels and, if needed, take a vitamin B supplement. The B vitamins work in concert, so take them together. Typical dosage: A daily vitamin B complex that provides at least 50 mg of each of the major B vitamins.
Zinc: is an essential component of the powerful antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) and it is important for proper function of the immune system. Research shows that up to 69 percent of people with tinnitus are deficient in this key mineral. In one trial, 25 percent of the participants experienced improvement after taking 100 mg of zinc daily for three to six months. Typical dosage: 15 mg daily. If you take zinc on a long-term basis, you also need to take 2 mg of copper per day to prevent becoming deficient in that mineral.