If you’ve ever experienced an uninvited episode of ringing in your ears, you likely understand the frustration of tinnitus. Most occurrences of ringing in the ear only last a short time, although some people must live with chronic tinnitus. An estimated 85 percent of chronic tinnitus cases are idiopathic (of an unknown cause) and are therefore difficult to treat. Although bodyworkers cannot offer a cure for those with ringing in their ears, they do possess several tools to reduce chronic tinnitus’ frequency and intensity.
Affecting approximately one in every five people, tinnitus is actually a symptom of an underlying condition. The annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present, tinnitus can include the following types of noise:
In more severe cases, tinnitus can be so loud it interferes with one’s ability to concentrate or hear. Tinnitus may be present all of the time, or it may be intermittent.
Even though a number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus, an exact cause may be hard to find. Typical tinnitus contributors include:
- Inner Ear Damage – The tiny, delicate hairs in the inner ear move in relation to sound waves. This movement triggers a nerve impulse to the brain for sound interpretation. If these hairs are damaged, they could leak random electrical impulses to the brain, causing tinnitus. This can occur from age-related hearing loss and exposure to loud noise.
- Earwax – While earwax generally protects the ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria, excessive amounts may cause tinnitus or hearing problems.
- Otosclerosis – This genetic condition caused by abnormal bone growth can stiffen the bones in the middle ear and initiate tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease – Associated with ear ringing, dizziness and vertigo, this inner ear disorder is believed to be caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure or composition.
- Stress and Depression – Although the relationship is unclear, physicians often cite this as a cause of tinnitus when no physical ailment can be identified.
- Blood Vessel Disorders – Some of the blood vessel disorders that could result in tinnitus include atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, a kink in the carotid artery or capillary malformation.
- Medications – Tinnitus is listed as a side effect for a variety of medications. Common culprits include antibiotics, cancer drugs, diuretics, quinine medications and aspirin.
Additional causes of tinnitus include allergies, dental work, head or neck injuries or a local tumor.
Identifying the cause of tinnitus customarily dictates the treatment that would be most effective. For example, removing excessive earwax or changing medications can resolve tinnitus with corresponding etiology. For the cases unrelated to an identifiable condition, other strategies are employed by healthcare practitioners. These include:
- Masking the noise using a white noise machine, fan or other constant low level sound source
- Medications to reduce tinnitus’ severity
- Avoiding tinnitus irritants such as loud noises, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Managing stress
Bodyworkers can offer their clients with tinnitus several additional tactics for easing tinnitus. Three of the preferred approaches include:
- Acupressure – Based on Traditional Chinese Medical theories, stimulating the acupressure points Triple Burner 3, Gallbladder 20, Gallbladder 34, Liver 3, Liver 2, Kidney 3 and Urinary Bladder 23 can help reduce tinnitus.
- Aromatherapy – Whether stimulating local blood circulation, reducing congestion or calming the nervous system, applying essential oils posterior to the ear lobe and on the posterior neck on the affected side can bring rapid tinnitus relief. Some oils reportedly used for ear ringing include basil, lavender, juniper berry and cypress.
- Cranial-Sacral Therapy – Because cranial-sacral therapy can release tension in the cranial bones that connect with the ear, removing these restrictions often stops idiopathic ear ringing.
Due to the range of possible tinnitus causes – some of them being severe medical conditions – any abnormal ear ringing should be evaluated by a physician. Once it is declared to be idiopathic, tinnitus can be helped with an array of approaches. Aside from the more traditional strategies of masking random ear sounds, medicating the patient, avoiding triggers and better managing stress, bodyworkers have a lot of value to add. For achieving more peace and quiet, acupressure, aromatherapy and cranial-sacral therapy can help to silence the buzz of chronic tinnitus.