Update 8/1/19. According to the American Tinnitus Association, 21.4 million people in America suffer from ringing in the ears (tinnitus ). Unfortunately, I am one of those people. My battle with this disorder came on slowly in my left ear but as it got worse, it's caused significant hearing loss. Here, for the first time I will reveal the journey I've undertaken to try to find a natural cure for my tinnitus. Here also, I'll tell you about the supplements and other alternative treatments I've tried. I'm doing this to help others who are searching for answers. I'm also looking for answers myself, so if you too are dealing with this tinnitus, do tell me what has worked – and not worked – for you. I'm all ears…
How Did I Get Tinnitus?
I honestly have no idea. The ringing in my ears started around 2013 with a slight noise in my left ear. I didn't pay much attention to it at first. After a few months, because it was not going away, I decided to look into what was causing it. So I scheduled a hearing test. At that time, the doctors could not figure out what was causing my left ear ringing. Since I was not losing my hearing (back then), the doctors basically said: “deal with it.”
While this was not the news I wanted to hear, I'd already been dealing with it for several months, so I resigned myself to the fact that this is what life had in store with me.
At least my hearing was normal I told myself…
After several months of going about my business, one night I had a god-awful pain/pressure in my left ear. It was maddening and actually hurt. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I became dizzy – really dizzy. The bed was doing flip-flops and spinning. I could hardly get out of bed. In fact, I could not function. I spent the next day or so in bed, unable to work or do anything.
An then, as quick as it came, the dizziness left.
While the dizziness was gone, I still had the tinnitus – and still, do to this day.
Since that time I've only had one other bout with severe dizziness. As bad as the ear ringing can be at times, at least I can function. The dizziness, on the other hand, is incapacitating.
A few things worth mentioning are that I did suffer a concussion in 2010 but that was 3 years before my symptoms started. I've asked doctors about this. Some say it's not related – because they occurred 3 years apart- but others say they might be related. I did have a head and neck MRI and it showed no physical damage.
I also seem to have temporomandibular joint disorder (usually called TMJ). TMJ is linked to tinnitus too. I believe my father had it also. I'm not aware of any tinnitus in my father and I've had TMJ for as long as I can remember. My tinnitus started in 2013.
Could all this be the perfect storm as they say? Who knows.
One other odd thing I've noticed is that the ringing in my left ear seems to get temporary louder after I drink a smoothie for breakfast. This is especially so after I sit down at my desk (but it doesn't seem to occur if I'm standing). The smoothie I make has a lot of fruits and veggies in it. Fruits and veggies have a lot of potassium. One doctor thought this might be related to changes in the sodium/potassium pumps in the cells of my ears. Again, I can't be sure of this. I'm bringing this up in case it helps someone else.
As the months turned into years, I've noticed a slight ringing in my right ear has begun. This right ear tinnitus is not as bad as what I experience in my left ear and there are times I don't even notice it.
Now that I've shared my story, let me now share with you the things I've done to try to cure tinnitus.
Tinnitus Tests and Medications
After several months of dealing with the ringing, my doctor prescribed a round of prednisone to see if this was related to inflammation. I must admit, I loved prednisone. I felt great like I was 20 years old again! Unfortunately, prednisone is not a drug you can stay on long, so after a week or so, I tapered off the medication.
Unfortunately, prednisone had no effect on the tinnitus.
By this time, people started saying to me “maybe it's a tumor.” I doubted it was, but just to be safe, I oped to get an MRI of my head and neck. I had to pay for this out of pocket because insurance would not cover it (thanks Aetna!).
Fortunately, the MRI was normal.
My Hearing Gets Worse
I could live with the ringing in my left ear but unfortunately, I eventually started going deaf in that ear. It was a slow and subtle decline, but I knew something was happening when I began having trouble understanding people who spoke too fast or too low. To compensate I would orientate my head such that my good, right ear, was to the person speaking.
This eventually prompted me to seek the help of an ENT doctor. This physician diagnosed me with Meniere's disease and confirmed what I already knew; the hearing in my left ear was less than my right ear.
He prescribed a water pill called Triamterene-HCTZ and advised me to eat a low sodium diet and cut back on caffeine. I normally don't eat a lot of salt, and thanks to the book How Not To Die I was already eating a lot more fruits and veggies.
Reducing caffeine was harder to do but I can now report that most days I don't have any.
But, because I didn't want to keep taking Triamterene-HCTZ forever, and because I was not satisfied with waiting and seeing if this would get worse, I decided to take matters into my own hands and see if there were some natural cures or treatments for tinnitus / Meniere's disease.
Here is a list of what I experimented with. If you think I should try anything else, leave your ideas in the comments below.
Supplements For Tinnitus
There are many supplements that are touted to improve ringing in the ears. Here is a brief review of what I experimented with and after that, I'll summarize the other alternative treatments I tried.
Many of the tinnitus supplements I purchased came from my local Vitamin Shoppe. When I could, I purchased their name brand supplements because I've never seen anything bad about Vitamin Shoppe brands.
When Vitamin Shoppe did not have a name brand for what I was looking for, I purchased from other companies (Natures Bounty, Natures Made, etc.) who I felt had a good reputation and offered the supplement in an amount that could most easily help me reach the dosage I was looking for.
The first supplement I tried was Lipoflavonoid. This is arguably the best-known tinnitus supplement, thanks to its TV ads. Lipoflavonoid
contains a bioflavonoid (plant nutrient) from lemons called eriodictyol glycoside.
Research, conducted in the 1960s noted that bioflavonoids from lemons might help tinnitus. I took Lipoflavonoid for over 2 months but unfortunately did not find any significant relief.
See the LipoFlavonoid review for more info on the supplement and my experiment with it.
The extract in lipoflavonoid is also available as a stand-alone supplement. While I did not have much luck with Lipoflavonoid, I thought I'd go right to the source and just use the active ingredient.
I tried a lemon bioflavonoid supplement that contained:
- 1000 mg lemon bioflavonoid (50% active)
- 100 mg Hesperidin complex
- 100 mg Rutin complex
I took 1-2 tables for a month but did not notice any symptom relief.
N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a popular supplement because it can raise glutathione levels. Glutathione is a very strong antioxidant enzyme. Some researchers have noted that older men with ear ringing have more oxidative stress (free radical damage) than those without tinnitus. In theory, this might lead to blood vessel damage, resulting in ear ringing.
One report tells the story of a 47 yr old woman whose tinnitus had “largely disappeared” after taking 2 grams of NAC per day. She had tinnitus for 6 years prior to this for unknown reasons.
The report does not say how long the woman took NAC supplements but based on this I tried 2 grams of NAC for 1 month. I can't say though that I felt any different afterward. NAC is a fine supplement, but for tinnitus, it just didn't work for me.
Here are NAC supplements on Amazon if you want to try them.
For a short period of time – against my better judgment -I stared taking ginkgo Biloba to see if it helped. This was based on some evidence that ginkgo might help tinnitus symptoms. Most of the research was on an extract called EGB 761. While other research noted ginkgo did not work, I decided to try it anyway. For a couple of weeks, I used 60-120 mg of ginkgo per day.
I say against my better judgement because it has some evidence suggest a risk of ginkgo causing brain bleeding.
Maybe I was overly paranoid but I started getting headaches when I used ginkgo. I never get headaches and so this worried me. I stopped taking ginkgo after a couple of weeks and never took it again. I also saw no change in tinnitus while taking ginkgo either.
At the same time I was taking ginkgo, I also started taking pycnogenol based on one study showing it helped. The study I'm referring to used 150 mg of pycnogenol per day and noted improvement after 3-6 months. I chose to use 100 mg per day because I'm cheap and pycnogenol can be expensive.
I stooped taking pycnogenol after a month because I saw no improvement in tinnitus symptoms. I know, the study said it might take 3-6 months to see changes, but I honestly found it hard to believe I would not notice anything after taking it for 30 days – especially when I was combining it with other healthy changes.
I know some will bash me on this. That is your prerogative.
Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract – like pycnogenol – is supposed to help blood vessels stay healthy and improve blood flow. If tinnitus is related to reduced blood flow to the ears (as some think it is) then it makes sense that things like grape seed extract might help. At least one study noted grape seed extract improved nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow.
I tried grape seed extract (100 mg/ day) for a month but saw no change in tinnitus noise symptoms. I picked 100 mg per day because I could not find any direct human research that revealed an actual amount that might work. Basically, I took a guess here.
Korean Red Ginseng
Ginseng is complicated because there is more than one type. One small study involving people noted that 1500-3000 mg per day of Korean red ginseng experienced improvements in their “quality of life.” This was determined by questionnaires the people completed before an after this 4-week study.
Even though Korean red ginseng did not improve tinnitus symptoms, the people in the study felt their quality of life was better. My overall quality of life is pretty good, so I reluctantly thought I'd give it a try and see what happened.
I used about 1500 mg of Korean red ginning for a month. I noticed no difference in my tinnitus symptoms.
Taurine is an amino acid. There is a rat study that showed taurine helped tinnitus (I have no idea how did they figure that out). While this was only a rat study, I did some math and determined they used between 67 mg/kg and 294 mg/kg. For a human of my weight, this was roughly equal to 1000 mg and 4000 mg per day.
So, I split the difference and took about 2000 mg of taurine per day for a month. Unfortunately, I saw no change in ear ringing symptoms. Because it was only a rat study, I knew it was a long shot but I felt it was worth a try.
Other Tinnitus Therapies
I not only experimented with supplements. I also actively sought out other therapies that might help tinnitus. Here is a brief review of the other alternative therapies I tried.
There have been studies showing acupuncture helps tinnitus. That said when taken as a whole, the general conclusion is that it may or may not help. This may be due to problems with how some of the studies were conducted.
Either way, I found an acupuncturist who listed on her website that she could provide tinnitus relief. I did six – 45-minute treatments. I was pretty aggressive with the acupuncture, doing 2 treatments a week, for 3 weeks total.
While the acupuncture was very relaxing, it did not reduce the ringing in my ears. While it's true it may take longer than this to work, the acupuncturist told me I should start to see improvements after 2-3 treatments. I noticed no change in my tinnitus symptoms during or after my treatments.
At last one study has noted chiropractic treatments can help people with Meniere's disease. One study that is frequently cited online is of a 40-year-old woman who had tinnitus for 2 years. Within 2 weeks of receiving chiropractic treatments, she was basically cured.
Based on that case report, I sought out a chiropractor to see if it might help me. Unfortunately, I don't think it worked. I did 3 chiropractic adjustments, spanning 3 weeks. The first treatment, I did not feel any different (no better and no worse). At about 30 minutes after the second treatment, however, I started to feel dizzy and this persisted in various degrees for about a week.
On the final visit, I was not adjusted – based on what happened the week beforehand – and just received some gentle massage and ultrasound. That did not help either. I did not continue with that chiropractic because I felt 3 weeks was enough, but more than that, I was skittish that further treatments might make me dizzy again.
I followed this up with another chiropractor who, I was told, specializes in the spine and neck area. She performed cranial sacral therapy (see the next section) but I did not notice a difference. I did not continue to see this therapist because her scheduled only allowed me to get an appointment about every month or so. I thought that was too long to wait between treatments and so I did not continue.
Cranial Sacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy refers to a type of gentle massage of the head and neck. It's very different than traditional chiropractic treatments. there are no adjustments with cranial sacral therapy. The internet is full of websites that claim this therapy can help. So, I sought out two different massage therapists who specialize in this. The first therapist I only saw once because of the distance and because I could not get appointments close enough to each other to see if it was effective.
The next massage therapist I saw gave me the opportunity to have 3 treatments, each separated by 1 week. In the end, while I liked craniosacral therapy (it was very relaxing), I did not feel it worked. I felt no different during or between treatments.
Tai Chi Chih
Tai chi chih is a form of tai chi. I have a friend who teaches this told me stories of people who's tinnitus improved after doing this type of exercise. So, I took a class that lasted 8 weeks with one 50 -60-minute class each week. I attended most classes but I freely admit that I did not practice the exercises when I was not in class. This was my fault.
Whether Tai Chi Chih helps tinnitus/ Meniere's disease or not I cannot say. I can only say I did not feel any different during classes or afterward.
So, Where Am I At Now…?
At my last ENT doctor visit, I had another hearing test. The hearing loss in my left ear was not worse than at my previous hearing test a year before. That's good! So it seems, for the moment my hearing loss has stabilized. I can also say I don't have as much trouble hearing people speak as I did before. As I walk around my neighborhood, with headphones on, I can hear cars coming up behind me. That's a good sign too.
Update: the hearing loss in my left ear has gotten worse. I estimate my hearing is less than 50% of the right ear.
My quest to find a tinnitus cure continues…
I'm sorry to say I don't have many answers for you. I wish I could point you to something that helped me. Because tinnitus can come in many shapes and sizes, I can't say for certain that because something didn't work for me means it would not work for you. In other words, don't take what I say as gospel. If nothing else, I hope I gave you some ideas to help you as you travel to find your own cure.