By Barry Keate
Itâ€™s summertime, and the livinâ€™ is easy . . .
So goes the old Gershwin song. With chronic tinnitus every season can present a challenge, but summer allows us to get out of the house, increase our activity level, and expand our horizons. This can reduce the negative effects of tinnitus.
In this spirit, here are 7 ways we can manage tinnitus this summer.
- Go for a Walk or Take a Hike
Just being outdoors in a park or wild area can rejuvenate us, and walking and hiking are some of the best exercises.
Exercise improves the heart, helps maintain body weight and reduces blood pressure. It leads to an increase in blood circulation in the entire body, and especially in the cochlea. Since most tinnitus is related to reduced blood circulation in the capillaries that feed the cochlea, increased blood circulation reduces the occurrence of tinnitus.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat physicians) recommends daily exercise as a means of controlling tinnitus. If you are new to exercise, start off slowly and gradually increase the amount over time. Try something you like, so you will stick with it. Walking, running, hiking and swimming are good examples of exercises that can help manage tinnitus.
- Get Close to Water
The sound of flowing water, such as a bubbling brook, rainfall, or pounding surf, masks tinnitus effectively for most people.
In 1973, Jack Vernon, PhD, was investigating tinnitus at the Oregon Health Sciences University. He was walking with a tinnitus patient, when they passed a fountain on campus. The tinnitus patient stopped and said the fountain drowned out his tinnitus. It was the first time in two years that he hadnâ€™t heard it. From this came the idea of tinnitus masking.
You can determine if this will work for you next time you take a shower. If the sound of the water reduces or completely masks your tinnitus, other water sounds should be effective for you. I cannot hear my tinnitus at all if I am at the beach or next to a waterfall or moving stream.
For everyday use, sound generators are available at most department stores, like Macyâ€™s. They are inexpensive and usually have a variety of water sounds. I find the sound of soft rainfall very soothing. It masks my tinnitus effectively.
When planning a vacation this summer, consider destinations with moving water. Fly fishing enthusiasts have long extolled the quiet virtue of dropping a line in a babbling brook. So if you own a pair of waders and a fishing pole, bring them along.
- Take Yoga or Tai Chi Classes
There are two primary neurotransmitters in the brain, glutamate and GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid). Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and increases electrical activity in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and slows electrical activity. It is necessary for these two to be in balance for healthy brain function.
Studies show tinnitus occurs when these two neurotransmitters are out of balance. A reduction of GABA allows glutamate to predominate. This situation revs up the brain and can lead to many neurological conditions, including anxiety, depression and tinnitus.
One reason benzodiazepine medications like Valium and Klonopin work to reduce tinnitus is they potentiate existing GABA in the brain and keep it concentrated. Unfortunately, these medications are highly addictive and have other negative side effects, so they are unsuitable for continuous use.
Yoga and Tai Chi exercises have been shown to increase GABA in the brain. They tone the body, slow down the brain, and reduce tinnitus and anxiety. They are very healthy alternatives to prescription medications.
- Reduce Stress
Tinnitus causes stress, and stress makes tinnitus worse. Itâ€™s a vicious cycle.
In fact, stress is the number one aggravator of tinnitus. Stress will elevate level three tinnitus (on a scale of ten) to seven or eight.
Itâ€™s easy to tell someone to relax, but actually doing it can be difficult. Several stress-reducing strategies can help. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of biofeedback and hypnotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help.
Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches people to control certain autonomic body functions, such as pulse and brainwave activity. Accomplished practitioners can actually control their body temperature and blood flow. They can generate heat in one hand while the other remains cool. They can lower their heart rate and reduce stress levels at will.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is short-term psychotherapy, which aims to change thinking and behavior patterns which underlie behaviors - including behaviors which aggravate tinnitus.
Hypnotherapy attempts to change responses, attitudes, and behaviors by addressing a person's subconscious. It can also be useful in managing tinnitus.
Other stress reduction techniques can be practiced at home, including progressive relaxation and deep breathing.
- Eat Healthy
After stress, poor diet is probably the greatest aggravator of tinnitus. Everyone with tinnitus should know the dangers of eating too much salty food. A salty meal will increase tinnitus in a matter of minutes, and it will be hours until the excess salt can be processed. This happens because salt constricts the blood vessels and reduces circulation. In particular, avoid packaged and processed foods, the source of most of the salt in the American diet.
Simple sugars are another food item to avoid. In one study almost 92% of people with tinnitus had insulin resistance or Type II Diabetes. After staying on a diet suitable for diabetics for a period of 2 years, over half of them dramatically reduced or completely eliminated their tinnitus.
Sugar substitutes can be nearly as bad. With the exception of Stevia and xylitol, most sugar substitutes can actually spike blood sugar levels as much or more than regular refined sugar.
Food additives such as Aspartame and MSG can cause increased concentrations of glutamate in the brain, increasing electrical activity as discussed above.
The best diet for people with tinnitus is tasty and healthy. It consists primarily of whole foods, with very little packaged or fast food. This is commonly called the Mediterranean Diet and is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, cheese, fish and poultry, with red meat allowed perhaps one day per week.
Summertime offers us a great opportunity to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. From backyard gardens to local farmers markets, a healthy array of locally grown produce, usually low in glycemic sugars, are easy to find and enjoy. So dig in!
Reduced stress and a healthy diet will go a long way toward reducing tinnitus this summer.
- Take Arches Tinnitus FormulaÂ®
Arches Tinnitus Formula with Ginkgo Max 26/7Â® is the only scientifically formulated product that has the potential to reduce tinnitus sound levels for most people. It consists of a highly purified extract of Ginkgo biloba, zinc picolinate and odor-controlled garlic.
Ginkgo biloba has been shown in numerous clinical studies to reduce tinnitus loudness and aggravation, as opposed to placebo.
Zinc picolinate has also been shown in clinical studies to be effective in reducing tinnitus. In one study, the severity of tinnitus decreased in 82% of study participants.
Arches Tinnitus Formula works best in those who have hearing loss or noise-induced tinnitus. This group accounts for about 75% of all tinnitus cases. One prominent ENT physician states that Arches Tinnitus Formula has about a 75% to 80% success rate in reducing tinnitus symptoms in this group of patients.
Our own clinical study of the effectiveness of Arches Tinnitus Formula showed two-thirds of participants had a reduction in tinnitus symptoms. The average reduction was 35%.
- Protect Your Hearing
One final note about summertime activities: please protect your hearing. Use foam rubber earplugs in noisy stadiums or outdoor concerts, when mowing your lawn and during any other noisy activity.
Have a safe, quiet and wonderful summer.