You’re working on the computer. You hear a high-pitched tone that doesn’t seem to go away. You shut the computer off. The tone continues to sound. After several days, you begin to wonder what the heck is going on.
Ringing in the ears, or tinnitus (the technical term), affects over 45 million Americans each year, making it one of the most common health conditions in the U.S. Those that have severe cases may suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide, but most have minor symptoms that may worsen on occasion. Most with low-level ringing just get used to it or find ways to dampen the sound so it isn’t as annoying.
WHAT CAUSES TINNITUS?
Tinnitus can be caused by many different things, including prolonged exposure to loud noise, age-related hearing loss due to a reduction in the number of hairs in the inner ear (often exacerbated by loud noise), ear infections, ear wax build-up, certain medications (particularly antibiotics and diuretics), sinus problems and a variety of diseases (such as Meniere’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis). Less commonly, it can be caused by head injuries, changes in blood flow due to anemia or hypertension, diabetes or thyroid imbalances.
Ayurveda considers it an imbalance of the prana vaya energy that governs the head and sensory/motor functions. Cold head baths, excess traveling and motion, insomnia, excess bitter, spicy and drying foods and excess exposure to dry weather conditions can trigger the condition. It is more common as people age, as old age is the Vata season of life, and tinnitus is a Vata symptom. Stress and anxiety, also Vata symptoms, can make it worse.
TRICKS TO HELP PREVENT AND TREAT TINNITUS
Since there are numerous causes, some of which are quite serious, it is always a good idea to have your general physician do a thorough examination. Depending upon the diagnosis, here are some of the best non-medical techniques you can use to minimize or prevent ringing in the ears.
- Ear Oiling – Warm sesame oil (or olive oil) to body temperature and fill one ear at a time. Let each ear bathe in oil for at least 5 minutes or more. Do this on a regular basis to help balance the Vata energy and support hair follicles in your inner ear. Ear oiling (karna purana) also helps soften and encourage removal of ear wax build-up. If time is short or just as part of your daily routine, rub a little warm sesame oil around the outer ear before bed. And be patient. It may take up to two weeks to see results.
- Take 5 grams of Ashwagandha in warm milk at bedtime to help offset the Vata imbalance and nourish connective tissue. Ashwagandha can also help reduce anxiety, which can play a role.
- Reduce salt intake, particularly if you tend toward high blood pressure. In this case, exercise may also help improve blood flow.
- Reduce exposure to loud noises and music.
- Refrain from smoking and alcohol, both of which can be imbalancing to Vata and drying to the inner ear chamber.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to technology, such as television and computers, as sensory over-stimulation can be Vata vitiating.
- Take advantage of stress-reducing activities like massages, yoga and meditation to help balance Vata, which can worsen with age, excessive motion and stress. In fact, try not to worry about tinnitus, as the worry itself can increase symptoms.
- Avoid open windows in cars and fans directly on your person. Vata is a combination of the air and ether elements, so excessive air flow can worsen tinnitus symptoms.
If you already have tinnitus and nothing you do helps relieve the symptoms completely, many people find the sound less annoying when they listen to white noise or nature sounds. Listening to recordings, particularly at bedtime, will help dampen the sound to ensure you get a good night’s rest. And getting a good night’s rest definitely helps reduce tinnitus.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at info@positivelyayurvedic.