Tinnitus is commonly called ‘ringing in the ears’ but some people have really loud noises (or roaring, hissing, buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears that can actually jam out outside noises and conversations. It can be caused by loud noises or music, ototoxic drugs, wax buildup in the ear, allergies, ear or sinus infection, congestion, jaw or bite misalignment (TMJ disorder),cardiovascular disease, Meniere’s disease, a tumor on the auditory nerve, otosclerosis, underactive thyroid, head or neck trauma and believe it or not, dehydration.
The body is 70 percent water and the delicate bones and accompanying tissues in the ear are very sensitive, even to dehydration. Once the tissues dry out, there is not the flexibility in the small joints in the tiny bones that “hear”. The imbalance in the fluids can make the tiny hairs in the cochlea of the inner ear become damaged. Damage can also come from loud noises such as lawn mower and rock concerts. Even MP3 players turned up too loud can cause damage. The damage can become permanent if too little healthy water is ingested over time or if you are habitually in a noisy environment. Chronic dehydration can make inner ear function worse, so make sure that you drink lots of healthy water, not coffee, fruit juice, carbonated beverages or bottled water.
If you find you have tinnitus after a loud noise event, start drinking more water and avoid other loud noises for a few days. You don’t want the ringing to become permanent. If you find that the ear noises persist, avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, caffeine, aspirin and nicotine as they can make the noises worse. Although aspirin and certain antibiotics can make tinnitus worse, your doctor can help you make substitutions or regulate the dosage so you are more comfortable.
If you run or do sports you will want to drink plenty of healthy water. Overheating can aggravate your tinnitus just as much as dehydration.
In recent years, researchers have used MRI imaging to detect brain activity with people who suffer from tinnitus. They have found hyperactivity in the auditory cortex and in certain parts of the limbic brain, not normally found in people without ear noises. The limbic brain governs stress responses such as anxiety and emotions. Researchers say that it is not that tinnitus is induced by stress, but that the part of the brain that produces fearful emotions is hyperactive in tinnitus sufferers.
For a long time, the questions medical professionals and scientists had was where the “ringing” was located. They know people could “hear” the noise but they wondered if it was in the ears or the brain. It was postulated that the noise emerged as the sound went from the ear to the central nervous system to the brain. When the hearing was assaulted by prolonged loud noise, even for a short time and there was trauma, the brain would try to compensate by switching up its own amplifier. But just like a short wave radio you hear more sound in addition to hearing more hiss. But now in concert with the MRI imaging, scientist are beginning to unravel the mysteries of tinnitus.
In Germany and Belgium, research is showing some promise with a treatment protocol called Magnetic Transcranial Stimulation with some sufferers. This treatment involves placing a magnetic plate just above the ear and holding it where the auditory cortex is. When electric current is pulsed through the plates, it is postulated that faulty brain signals are disrupted and even possibly being reset. The painless 5 to 30 minutes sessions do not require anaesthetic but do require expensive equipment only found in major neurology centers.
Within the last two years, some exciting developments have been emerging from the pharmaceutical industry. A very dangerous procedure was tried, injecting lidocaine, an anaesthetic into the blood stream of a tinnitus sufferer. There was a complete absence of symptoms for five minutes. This is not a recommended treatment, but what it told researchers is that somewhere in the brain, there is an off-switch. Researchers are now actively looking for it.
In my clinic, I have a number of clients who have lost their tinnitus from drinking alkaline, ionized water. The level of their chronic dehydration was the benchmark for how long it took to disappear. This healthy water gently neutralized the acidic condition that partners with dehydration to create all kinds of symptoms in the body, including ear noises. Try my 7 day water challenge. It’s free and you’ll feel better for it.