Tinnitus: What is this Ringing in my Ears?


Holistic Healthy Living Blog

By Rachelle Tetreault, L,Ac

      According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million Americans suffer with some form of tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Out of these cases, almost half of these are considered chronic tinnitus occurring regularly over a period of time. Some variations of tinnitus can be more like swooshing, buzzing, humming, clicking, whistling, or even a hissing sound. Having tinnitus can feel not only frustrating but debilitating as well. It can interfere with basic living and is a nuisance that does not go away on its own. This noise can be intermittent or continuous, high pitched or low pitched, and can only affect one ear or bilateral ears. Tinnitus is much more likely to affect age groups of 60 to 69 years. However, age range of 40 to 80 years is when tinnitus is often diagnosed.

The western approach to tinnitus is usually having hearing aids placed or a change of medication. The causes for tinnitus can be age-related, exposure to loud noises, certain medications which are ototoxic causing ear damage, and also Meniere’s disease. Other causes can be temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), benign tumor, excessive ear wax, or allergies.

Eastern medicine looks at the pathogenesis of tinnitus as being rooted in kidney essence deficiency. The ear relies on kidney essence for nourishment. Certain causes may be constitutional weakness, chronic disease, and even excessive sexual activity. Other pathogenesis are rooted in emotional stress which creates liver stagnation and results in liver fire. This can ascend through the liver’s luo-connecting channel, the gallbladder meridian, which opens to the ear and disrupts the auditory orifice. Improper diet is another major factor which leads to damp-heat accumulation. This phlegm-fire can eventually disturb our sensory orifices

In Eastern medicine, tinnitus is broken down into basic patterns of diagnosis. These include kidney essence deficiency, phlegm-fire, liver fire, wind-heat, or spleen failing to raise the clear yang. These are different forms of etiology or cause.

Sudden onset of deafness or severe tinnitus with exterior symptoms reveal exterior wind-heat and will be treated by dispersing wind and heat. This occurs with a sudden acute onset where there is pain and itchiness in the ears. This is often accompanied by fever, general body aches, and a sore throat. Both herbs and acupuncture are used to clear the heat and relieve the toxicity.

Sudden onsets of tinnitus with occurrence of a loud sound and aggravated by anger is of liver fire origin.  Signs of a red face, irritability, bitter taste in the mouth, insomnia will also be present. The treatment is to clear liver heat and purge fire. Whereas tinnitus which is accompanied by dizziness, vertigo, and/or a stifling chest sensation is rooted in turbid phlegm with heat. Symptoms with turbid phlegm can also show signs of nausea, copious sputum, irregular bowel movements, and chest stuffiness. The tongue will have a yellow greasy coating. The pulse will be wiry and slippery. The treatment goal again is to transform phlegm, clear heat, and both harmonize and descend turbidity.

With a gradual onset of low-pitched tinnitus which worsens in the evening, the etiology is kidney essence deficiency. This low pitch sound often resembles running water and can be accompanied by both soreness and weakness of the knees and the back.  Other symptoms may include dry mouth, irregular menstruation, light fever or sweating that may come and go. The tongue will be red with very little coating. The pulse will be weak and thready. The goal for treatment is to nourish the kidney yin, clear empty deficient heat, and restrain kidney essence.

Lastly, a gradual onset of low-pitched tinnitus which is aggravated by stress or exertion but relieved by rest is known as qi deficiency root cause. This is defined as the spleen failing to raise the clear yang. Other symptoms may include fatigue, lack of appetite, loose stools, diarrhea. The goal is to nourish the spleen energy and raise the yang.

All of these types of etiologic root patterns are treated with both acupuncture and custom herbal therapy. Depending on diagnosis, certain points will be used for reducing or reinforcing methods based on either excess or deficiency in the body.

The kidneys open into the ears allowing its essence and blood to provide nourishment throughout and can directly cause tinnitus or deafness. However, there can be other causes besides kidney deficiency. Wind-heat causes are more prevalent and involve inflammation or infection of the eustachian tube. With Meniere’s disease or in labyrinthitis, phlegm accumulation may occur directly obstructing the orifice itself. Liver fire origin is seen in hypertensive patients. Proper and accurate diagnosis is needed to treat tinnitus most effectively.  Eastern medicine is very beneficial to help in the treatment of tinnitus but getting the proper diagnostics by an otologist is greatly recommended to ensure nothing is overlooked prior to treatment. Call today for your journey to health 772-353-1397.