Tinnitus: Is the cure within your reach?

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Photo: Franco Antonio Giovanella/Unsplash

HIGH-PITCHED screeching, beeps, and tones that just don’t seem to want to go away. That’s what tinnitus amounts to for so many sufferers. While this in itself may understandably be frustrating, not knowing the cause or not being given any effective treatment can be even moreso.

Conditions like tinnitus really highlight the importance of an holistic approach to treatment of any condition or symptom. If you were simply to look at the ears to solve the problem, you may well never come up with a solution.

There are, of course, a number of potential factors involved in the development of tinnitus. The obvious one a lot of people consider is exposure to very loud noise. It is true to say that the structure of the ear is complex and delicate, so it’s not hard to understand why extreme noise may trouble this fine structure.

In the medical world, it is also sometimes seen as a sign of Meniere’s disease, a chronic ear disease which would usually also present as chronic episodes of vertigo and hearing loss. If, however, your tinnitus symptoms appear to be independent of all of these, it’s worth investigating some more.

In Chinese medicine, the ears are linked to kidney energy as they are on the kidney meridian or energy line. So anything that upsets the kidneys will have a knock-on effect on the ears.

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The kidneys regulate all the fluids in the body, so any medication that alters this can alter the ability of the kidneys to function well. This could include diuretics, blood thinners, anti-cholesterol medication, and, of course, high blood pressure medication.

In fact, lot of people who develop tinnitus turn out to have undiagnosed high blood pressure, so tinnitus is the body’s very annoying but very effective way of drawing your attention to that fact.

It’s often said that tinnitus is stress-related, which may well be the case.

Think again of the kidneys. In Chinese medicine, they relate to fear, so if there is a source of fear or anxiety in your life, it can indeed have an effect on your ears.

In such cases, taking up some form of relaxation – such as meditation or yoga – or even having some counselling for deep-rooted fears is an excellent way to address the tinnitus problem while dealing with the bigger picture too.

Not all cases of tinnitus develop in the same way though, and the differences in how they present can tell a lot about the original cause.

Sudden onset cases usually suggest a ‘full’ condition, while gradual onset suggests an ’empty’ condition. But what does this mean?

These are Chinese medicine terms again but are very useful when trying to distinguish one sensation from another.

Full conditions tend to show intense pain, stiffness, contractions, and cramps and so are liver-related. On the other hand, empty conditions present as a dull ache, with weakness of the muscles, numbness, and even atrophy and so are kidney-related.

Where the kidneys are concerned, ’empty’ conditions usually mean a deficiency of the kidneys. In other words, they cannot supply adequate fluids, particularly yin fluids, to maintain good health. In optimum health, the kidneys would provide abundant yin fluids for the liver, heart, and lungs to function at their best.

If the liver or heart are under particularly demanding conditions, with heightened stress, too much alcohol, processed foods, excess fat intake, and perhaps smoking, they are said to become overheated or congested.

So what do you do to something that’s overheating? You try to quench it with water. Which is exactly what the liver and heart try to do.

The liver and heart draw heavily on the kidneys to stabilise their overheated state, but if the kidneys are deficient to begin with, they cannot meet demand and health problems ensue.

This is where you can step in to realign this out of balance rollercoaster. You might not automatically think eating fatty food, drinking, and smoking is causing your tinnitus, but perhaps now that you can see a little of the background, you understand the link better.

The solution is to minimise your exposure to these toxic elements placing too much of a burden on your body. Introduce beneficial living, seasonal foods that nourish the body and help to alleviate its congested state; manage your stress levels in whatever way works for you (as long as it doesn’t involve smoking and drinking) and so limit the excesses which caused the imbalance in the first place.

A further step, if you really want to get to the bottom of it, is to nourish those deficient kidneys. Some people, especially those at the end of a long line of children, are naturally prone to kidney deficiency, others develop it through lifestyle. Either way, you can offset it with kidney nurturing foods. These include fennel, parsley, millet, barley, kidney beans, watermelon, some berries such as blackberries, spirulina, and seaweed.

So, an end to tinnitus may well be in your grasp after all.