I’d gotten ringing in the ears after concerts before – it would last a day and disappear. This time was different. I was at a concert at the House of Blues, and it was sheer torture.
Through the magic of the internet, I’d hooked up with a group of music-loving women my age. The self-appointed leader of the group loved to stand by the front of the stage at every concert, a half-inch from the stage monitors. Everyone else followed suit.
We weren’t kids; we were women in our mid-40s. I never thought much about the damage such close proximity could do to my hearing. I wore cotton balls or cheap earplugs from the Rite-Aid half the time. The other half I didn’t wear any ear protection.
After all, I wasn’t a musician playing onstage every night. The front row concert jaunts took place an average of once a month. How much damage could they do?
After the headlining band had been onstage for about 20 minutes, I slunk out of the show, partly because my ears hurt, partly due to other annoyances. If you’ve ever been to a general admission rock concert, you know the wackos duke it out with the loyal fans in the first few rows by the stage. Most of the time, the wackos win – the drunks, the obnoxious brawlers, the idiots slinging past you to go to the concession stand or bathroom five times during the show. I don’t quite remember which tactic drove me away, but I retreated to the bar, the back of the house and finally to a cab home.
When I got ready for bed, that’s when I noticed it. The half ringing, half washing machine agitator whooshing in my ears. I assumed it was temporary tinnitus caused by being too close to the stage, and it would fade in a few days. (Later, I found out the whooshing was pulsatile tinnitus, which can be related to hypertension and blood flow problems.)
It lasted five years.
When I stopped going to concerts and clubs (a few years later!), the ringing and whooshing disappeared after about a year of diminishing in-ear noise. Occasionally, it would boot up at night, but it was nowhere near as irritating as it had been when I went to shows every week. During this time, I stopped drinking alcohol and eating fatty and junk food. Abstinence from noise and eating better did the trick. My ear was healed.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound in one or both ears. Over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus. It has several causes, including:
Head, Neck or Dental Issues
Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic. Patients may suffer from two different types of tinnitus, like I did. This doesn’t necessarily mean the tinnitus is more severe than a single-diagnosis tinnitus.
What You Can Do to Reduce or Get Rid of Tinnitus
See your doctor and follow his or her guidelines. It’s important to determine what caused the tinnitus (repeated exposure to loud music or machinery? High blood pressure?) and treat or eliminate that.
The food you eat affects your mental and physical health, including whether or not you develop tinnitus. A healthy diet may not guarantee you’ll avoid tinnitus, but it will increase your chances of retaining good hearing.
All of the these ingredients are found in fast food and junk food, so avoiding McDonald’s, the $1 Chinese Food Buffet and KFC will help you avoid tinnitus or accelerate healing it.
Caffeine is a neural exciter. It wakes you up and gives you energy, but drinking too much coffee boosts your blood pressure and reduces blood flow. Don’t overindulge in Starbucks or energy drinks. Try drinking green tea or herbal tea occasionally to cut down on caffeine intake.
Too much sugar causes dental problems and harms gums, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.
Excess salt and trans fat are other causes of hypertension and heart problems. Hypertension and heart problems affect blood flow and tinnitus may be one of the symptoms.
MSG exacerbates neurotransmitter activity, making you perceive the tinnitus as getting louder. Check any processed or packaged food you buy for MSG on the ingredient label, since this preservative is used in many snack foods and frozen foods.
Aspartame and Artificial Sweeteners
If you have tinnitus and drink lots of diet soda (or put artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea), stop drinking the soda and using the sweeteners for a few weeks, and see if your tinnitus improves. Aspartame works on excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, damaging the nervous system and causing tinnitus. Use honey to sweeten tea instead of artificial sweeteners or sugar, and get your sweets fix from fresh fruits.
Healthy Foods to Reduce Tinnitus
Eating a healthy diet won’t cure tinnitus, but it will reduce the underlying symptoms causing it. Replace processed foods with organically grown fruits and vegetables, and use plenty of anti-inflammatory spices and herbs to flavor food. Anti-inflammatory spices help fight cell-damaging free radicals and keep the blood in vessels near your ear flowing smoothly, reducing the chance of tinnitus.
Choose from the following foods and spices to improve overall health and avoid tinnitus:
Garlic, Turmeric and Other Spices Containing Antioxidants
Vitamin C Rich Fruits Including Strawberries, Blueberries, Lemons/Limes and Apples
Sunflower Seeds, Salmon and Other Foods Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Foods with Vitamin B12 – Pork, Cheese, Eggs, Shellfish, Red Meat, Tuna, Salmon and Fortified Cereals
Vitamin B12 may be the most important of the anti-tinnitus foods, as this vitamin has been found to protect the myelin sheath around auditory cells in a UK study.
The best way to keep your hearing ring free and whoosh-free? Minimize your time around loud noise, keep tabs on your blood pressure, wear ear protection and eat a healthy diet containing plenty of Vitamin B12, Omega 3s and antioxidants.
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