Tinnitus is a chronic condition of constant ringing in the ears. The cause is frequently unknown, which makes treatment a struggle to separate what works from what doesn’t. In cases where the medical cause is apparent – such as acoustic trauma, an inner ear disorder such as Meniere’s disease or infection – the treatment for tinnitus is the treatment of the disease. For idiopathic (unknown) tinnitus, lifestyle changes including exercise and diet are often effective.
Can what I eat cause tinnitus?
Idiopathic means “unknown” and for most of us this also implies, “It could be anything!” – which is not entirely accurate. With the exception of autoimmune or allergic inner ear disorders (which do exist) the answer to “Can foods cause tinnitus?” is maybe…but it’s pretty unlikely.
Some research has shown that people clinically deficient in some nutrients (like B12 or Zinc) may be more prone to develop tinnitus when exposed to acoustic trauma. Hyperinsulemia and unhealthy fluctuations in blood glucose have also been implicated in some inner ear disorders which can result in tinnitus. Whether or not diet is the source, the good news is that what you eat may help improve your symptoms.
How can my diet improve my tinnitus?
When tinnitus cannot be associated with a diagnosable disorder, the general recommendation leans toward improvement in overall health, especially inner ear health. In almost all circumstances, an improvement in one’s general health will have a positive effect on reducing symptoms.
One common suspect in idiopathic tinnitus is blood flow. The inner ear and the stria vascularis are big energy users; needing a constant heavy supply of oxygen and nutrients to generate ATP. Some suspect tinnitus results from restrictions to blood flow, whether from blockage or genetically small blood vessels. Anything that can improve blood flow may improve tinnitus.
How do I improve my blood flow?
Many of the same dietary recommendations for cardiovascular disease are recommended for tinnitus. High blood triglycerides and cholesterol can lead to narrowed and hardened vessels. Reducing these to healthy levels can – at least in theory – lead to improvement of symptoms and a slow-down of disease progression.
Removing vasoconstrictors or foods that aggravate hypertension may help as well. Fewer caffeinated beverages, increasing essential fatty acids (EFAs), and supplements which have been shown to increase vasodilatation (such as Ginko Biloba and Niacin) may also have positive effects. Reductions in salt are a common recommendation for some illnesses such as Meniere’s disease, and may have benefits for peripheral blood flow as well.
Exercise is, of course, one of the best ways to improve blood flow throughout the body. It increases oxygenation to all tissues including the inner ear, creates a more flexible vasculature and an improved circulation overall. The hormones triggered by exercise have growth and healing effects for tissues that have been or are being damaged.
It’s always best to consult a doctor before embarking on any major lifestyle change involving diet or exercise. With your doctor’s guidance you can improve your diet and health, which will likely improve everything else including your tinnitus symptoms.