Questions asked by real people with tinnitus. Answered by tinnitus authority Barry Keate.

Arches Natural Products President, Barry Keate, understands the suffering caused by tinnitus. Having lived with tinnitus for over five decades, Barry is an expert on the condition and has made the recovery from tinnitus his life’s work.
NOTE: Ask Barry is pleased to be able to answer your questions based upon the information we have available. Our answers to inquiries are not substitutes for a physician’s advice nor are they reviewed by a physician. We encourage you to share any suggestions you have received from Ask Barry with your doctor.

October 2021 Ask Barry

Rockin’ a full ear with Tinnitus

Hi Barry,

I was a rock musician for many years, and am suffering with a “hssssssss” in my left ear. Yes, I do do have substantial hearing loss in that ear (the right one is normal). The thing that’s causing me the most suffering is a stuffed up “fullness” in the affected ear. Is this another symptom of tinnitus?

I have seen an ear doctor, and he couldn’t find any obstructions (wax) in the ear. He said I should have an MRI examination to rule out the possibility of a tumor! First, I have no health insurance and can’t afford this procedure. Needless to say I’m scared stiff! I just want to know if ear “fullness” can be another symptom of tinnitus.

Thank you,
Fred W.

Dear Fred,

Ear fullness is not a symptom of tinnitus but tinnitus can be a symptom of ear fullness. It’s quite possible your Eustachian tubes are plugged which will cause or add to tinnitus.

MRIs are used to rule out tumors on the auditory nerve, which are extremely rare. When they do occur, they are always benign and slow growing. I would not suggest that you not get one but it’s not something I would worry about too much.

Ask your doctor if he will treat the fullness. Many typically prescribe a steroid-based nasal spray, such as Flonase or Rhinocort, and possibly an anti-histamine. This takes care of most ear fullness problems and should help the tinnitus. Also since you report having both hearing loss and tinnitus, I suggest trying Arches Tinnitus Formula which was developed specifically for these conditions and should help reduce sound levels.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

Can cotton swabs affect tinnitus?

Hi Barry,

I have had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. I recently read that using cotton swabs to remove ear wax can damage the cochlea and cause tinnitus. I use cotton swabs almost daily as it seems as if my ear canals itch a lot, especially after a shower. Could I be actively making my tinnitus worse on a daily basis? If so, is there a fix?


Christopher P.
San Diego, CA

Hi Christopher,

In general most physicians will tell you not to stick anything in your ears… That said, using cotton swabs doesn’t actually damage the cochlea, which is pretty far removed from the ear drum. There is the danger you can damage your ear drum though and that can worsen the tinnitus. If you damage your ear drum, you’ll know it, it will be very painful. Ear wax build-up is a possible cause for tinnitus.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests using mineral oil, baby oil or glycerin to remove wax. They have a complete “plain language” description of the ear wax problem and how to handle it at:  You can also read our article on 10 causes of ear fullness.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

Head Injury and Tinnitus

Dear Barry,

I am looking for information on head-injury related tinnitus. Is there any way to help this ailment? Can any herbs, supplements, or treatments aid in the healing of this particular tinnitus?

Thanking you,

Dear Ashley,

Head trauma is a common cause of tinnitus. There are several mechanisms of action causing the damage. The trauma can damage the auditory cortex in the brain, it can damage the auditory nerve leading from the cochlea or it can damage the fine bones in the middle ear that conduct sound to the cochlea.

The primary therapy for trauma induced tinnitus is the same as for noise induced tinnitus. I recommend Arches Tinnitus Formula, and NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine), while it can still be found on the  market. Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Alpha Lipoic Acid are also helpful. These supplements can prevent further damage from occurring and will help to heal some of the existing damage.

For short term relief, many people have used GABA supplements. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that will slow down electrical activity in the brain and reduce tinnitus. It acts somewhat like a mild tranquilizer, so you must be careful when driving or operating machinery. I recommend 500-750 mg twice daily. After one week you can adjust dosage up or down depending on results. GABA can be found online and in health food stores.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

September 2021 Ask Barry

Which COVID Vaccine is better for Tinnitus?

Hi Barry,

I regularly read your newsletter so wondered if you could give me some advice. As a tinnitus sufferer for many years, I’m concerned about taking any of the COVID vaccines as I think it may make my tinnitus worse. Is there anything I can do in order to reduce the risk of my tinnitus getting worse if I agree to the COVID jab?

Kind regards,
Loretta P.

Dear Loretta,

First, all indications are that getting tinnitus from any vaccine is very rare. There have been several reports that COVID-19 may cause tinnitus and the vaccine might also cause it. Since the disease and the vaccination are so new, there haven’t been any clinical trials on this and the incidence at which it may occur.

There are some indications however, that give us a rough idea of the very low incidence rate of the vaccine causing tinnitus.

The US Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting database cites 152 reports of tinnitus among 25,072 recipients of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. This represents about 0.6% of this adverse event occurring. A UK database of Astrazeneca and Pfizer vaccines reports for 54,180 recipients, there were 320 tinnitus reports. This represents a 0.59% incidence of tinnitus in this database.

These are self-reported cases of tinnitus so it may be somewhat underreported. However, even if it is only half of the cases occurring with the vaccines, the incidence would still be about 1.2%.

The vaccine is safe and should be taken as quickly as possible to protect you from the highly infectious Delta variant. The consequences of coming down with COVID-19 are very serious and can be life-threatening.

To reduce the chances of worsening your tinnitus you can take N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) and Ginkgo Max 26/7®, the special Ginkgo biloba, found in Arches Tinnitus Formula. Take 1,000 mg of NAC daily and 480 mg of Ginkgo daily starting a couple of weeks before the vaccination and continuing for at least a month after.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

The ringing progresses…

Hi Barry,

I am 61 years old. I worked for a place that built office furniture for about 30 years. The last 20 years or so, we were required to use hearing protection. Anyway about ten years ago, I started having problems with ringing in the ears. As the years progressed, so did the ringing. I have been to a couple doctors that told me to learn to live with it. It is now to the point that its hard to live with. I can’t get a good nights sleep. Sometimes I feel that I’m going crazy. I have been told that you have helped people like me. I would appreciate help or advise that you might give. I feel like if I were to ever overcome ringing in the ears, it would change my whole life!


Robert S.

Dear Robert,

I’m sorry the tinnitus has been so bad for you. I understand how it can drive you crazy; I used tranquilizers for 3-4 years trying to stay calm.

I generally recommend melatonin to help in sleeping well. Generally, 10-20 mg of time-release melatonin will keep me asleep all night long. Take 1-2 hours before bed. Also GABA supplements can be helpful during the day. Start with 500-750 mg twice daily. After one week, evaluate how effective it is and increase dosage if necessary. GABA acts as a tranquilizer so be very careful driving or operating equipment. Both Melatonin and GABA can be found in better health food stores and are quite inexpensive.

You may also be helped by a bedside sound generator. These produce a variety of soothing sounds. Find one that generates water sounds; falling rain, bubbling brook, ocean, etc. The sound of water has been shown to be the most effective tinnitus masker.

Melatonin and GABA will eventually become less effective. For the long term, I recommend Arches Tinnitus Formula. Each bottle is a 25 day supply and you must use it for at least 3 months before evaluating how helpful it will be. I recommend 4 bottles used in succession. At the end of that time, your tinnitus should be decreased considerably. After that, you must continue to use it to maintain low sounds.

Some things to avoid. Salt is a major aggravator of tinnitus. It is very important to reduce salt intake as much as possible and drink lots of water. Stay away from soda, especially diet soda. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in diet sodas and it causes neurological damage. High glycemic foods, such as simple sugars and refined carbohydrates should be avoided. Many people find relief after they reduce their intake of salt and simple sugars.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

Doing the next right thing for her Tinnitus

Hi, Barry,

I just read about others and their problems and it helped me. I found out that cutting out the salt and down on sugars could help me a lot. I do take Plavix, Rythmol, Lipitor, Lisino, and asprin. So it’s little wonder my ears ring and hiss. I too have been woken at night from the ringing, and I have noticed that after eating something sweet or salty it’s worse. I don’t know if I could take your Arches Combo Pack, but I will ask my doctor. I will start taking Omega-3.

Thank you so much. I’ll be back and let you know what happens.


Dear Susie,

Rythmol and Lipitor are on the list of medications that can cause tinnitus. They each cause tinnitus in only 2% of people who use them. Aspirin causes tinnitus also, but generally only in very high doses. These may or may not be the cause of yours.

Plavix is a blood thinner as is Ginkgo biloba in Arches Tinnitus Formula. These should not be mixed unless under the supervision of your prescribing physician. There are no counter-indications but they are additive. Generally, a physician may lower the dosage of Plavix to compensate for the blood thinning properties of ginkgo. There are no other concerns with the medications you’re taking.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

August 2021 Ask Barry

Artificial Sweeteners and Tinnitus

Hi Barry,

You were talking about staying away from the artificial sweetener Aspartame, etc. What about Splenda? I don’t use a lot but some on my cereal in the morning… Is this a problem for my tinnitus?

Linda B.

Dear Linda,

The sugar alternative Splenda, generic name sucralose, is not a natural compound. It is made by chlorinating sugar. Chlorine replaces some of the hydroxyl groups in sugar. It can be made without sugar in the beginning by using compounds derived from beans, onions and other plants. Some chlorinated molecules serve as the basis of many pesticides such as DDT. These compounds accumulate in the liver and kidneys and are very difficult to clear from the body.

Aspartame (sold as NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful and Indulge) is widely used and is marketed to those who are overweight or diabetic, because it does not contain sugar. However, it is an excitatory neurotransmitter which causes neurons to become hyper-excited and drains them of nutrients until they wither and die. Aspartame excites brain neurons and increase levels of electrical activity in the brain and the auditory cortex, the area where tinnitus is perceived.

While Splenda is not a neurotoxin like Aspartame, it does have many side effects. There has not been one single study conducted on long term health effects on people using Splenda. But animal tests reviewed by the FDA uncovered side-effects as a result of eating sucralose. The FDA witnessed damage to the immune system, including shrunken thymus glands and decreased white blood cell counts, enlarged livers, enlarged kidneys, and low birth weight in the animal studies they reviewed.

Perhaps a better sugar substitute would be Xylitol or Stevia.

Xylitol was developed by the Finns during WWII due to sugar shortages and is manufactured from the husks of vegetable matter. It is about as sweet as table sugar with a third less calories and a low glycemic index. This means it is slowly absorbed from the digestive tract so it does not produce a rapid rise in blood sugar and is safe for diabetics.

While sugars tend to promote the growth of bacteria, Xylitol has been proven to inhibit their growth. It has been shown to be effective in preventing dental cavities by inhibiting the primary bacteria responsible for decay. It can be found in some toothpastes and chewing gums. A major cause of ear infections is a bacteria closely related to the one responsible for dental cavities. Knowing this, Finnish scientists tested 306 children with a history of ear infections. They were able to reduce these infections by half using xylitol sweetened gum. Xylitol looks like sugar, tastes like sugar and is classified as a sugar alcohol. Both the FDA and the World Health Organization have given it safe ratings as a food supplement.

Stevia is a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant. It is completely safe in its natural form and can be used to sweeten most dishes and drinks. Stevia is different from the sugar substitute Truvia, which is derived from the same plant but uses only certain active ingredients, not the whole plant. Because the synergistic effect of all the compounds in the plant provides the overall health effect, Truvia is not as healthful as Stevia.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

GABA for tinnitus?

Hi Barry,

I recently heard that GABA supplements can be helpful for tinnitus. Is this true?


Dear Richard,

I believe GABA supplements can help tinnitus. GABA receptors in the brain are inhibitory receptors; they slow down electrical activity. It is well known that people with tinnitus have an elevated level of electrical activity in the auditory cortex. Activating GABA receptors slows this activity. We published an article about research in this area a couple of years ago. The researchers used the prescription medication Neurontin, which is known generically as gabapentin. Gabapentin activates the GABA receptors in much the same way as GABA supplements. It has been used in the past as an anti-seizure medication for people suffering from epilepsy and similar disorders.

Anecdotally, I have heard from several people who have combined GABA supplements with Arches Tinnitus Formula. They tell me the GABA supplements enhance the ability of Arches Tinnitus Formula to reduce tinnitus and calm the mind.

It should be noted that GABA acts much like a prescription tranquilizer, without the addictive properties. If you take enough, it will make you drowsy and slow reaction time. I took 1500 mg twice daily for a couple of weeks. After several days I found myself dozing off at my desk in the middle of the day. People taking GABA should be very careful when driving or operating machinery. GABA is not something that can be used indefinitely; over time, the effect is reduced. However, it can be helpful in the early stages of treatment with Arches Tinnitus Formula.

GABA supplements are available in better health food stores and are fairly inexpensive.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

Phantom pressure in the ear?

Hi Barry,

I have been loyal to Arches Tinnitus Formula since the onset of my tinnitus. For 2 years now I am a tinnitus patient. My question is in two parts:

I have had bad fullness/pressure in my ears for 2 months now. After an appointment with an ENT, he examined me and said there was no indication of infection, blockage, or irritation in my ears, nose and throat. He said that he didn’t know what was causing the pressure in my Eustachian tubes. Do you know of any remedies to relieve this? I have not been in any altitude or pressure changes for 7 months.

He said I had quite a bit of ear wax in my ear. He attempted to remove it with a long, metal stick that really hurt my ear canal. I actually screamed and pulled away. I have heard many horror stories of people getting tinnitus from sticking things in their ears. Do you think he exacerbated my tinnitus from this? How do people get tinnitus from sticking objects into their ear canal when tinnitus is a disorder of the middle ear?

Always thanking you,

Dear Luana,

To answer your first question, you probably have some inflammation in your Eustachian tube. Inflammation can be caused by many things including infection, blockage and allergies.

It’s possible the fullness is simply generic inflammation. Inflammation is rampant in our society and causes many diseases. You may have seen the article we published on Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil. I have determined to use fish oil forever.

Fish oil will take quite a while to reduce inflammation. In the short term, pain relievers may work. They relieve pain by reducing inflammation and are called NSAID for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammation Drugs. Such medications as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen fall into this category. Be careful of ibuprofen; when I take it my tinnitus goes through the roof.

To your second question, I don’t believe he exacerbated your tinnitus. If he did, you would have known it by now. I have also heard many horror stories about removing ear wax. It is possible but highly unlikely that this procedure would cause or worsen tinnitus. Generally speaking, it doesn’t unless you perforate an ear drum, which usually does not cause tinnitus anyway.

Wishing you quiet times,
Barry Keate

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