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Tinnitus Library

Ask Barry: June 2009

Do you have questions about tinnitus, our products or specific treatments? Ask Barry. Arches President Barry Keate will select the most representative questions each month publication. Regardless all questions will receive a personal reply from Barry.

ASK BARRY Tinnitus expert, Barry Keate, answers your questions about Tinnitus Send your question to:  Ask Barry

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NOTE: Ask Barry is pleased to be able to answer your questions based upon the information we have available. Our answers to your email inquiries are not substitutes for a physician's advice nor are they reviewed by a physician. If you are under a physician's care, please share with your doctor any suggestions you have received from Ask Barry.

This month's questions:

Mercury fillings and tinnitus

Dear Barry

I recently purchased your vitamins and am on the second bottle. I had a question about mercury fillings in teeth. So many people say they worsen the symptoms of tinnitus and Meniere's disease. Do you know anything about them, good or bad??

Thank you, Peggy

Dear Peggy,

This is a great question; thanks for asking it. I have looked at mercury in fillings as a possible cause of tinnitus but haven't as yet formed a strong opinion. This will be a good subject for a future article on the subject.

Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin and contributes to many neurological conditions, such as tinnitus. Mercury in dental fillings is slowly leached into the body. Even removing the old fillings can present problems. My dentist recently told me that when you remove these fillings, there is a surge of mercury released into the system. I have several fillings dating from the 1960s that need replacing and will have them replaced with ceramic material.

The American Dental Association defends the use of mercury in fillings but I am doubtful of this practice. Especially since the ADA has a careful protocol for handling removed mercury fillings and treats it as a toxic substance.

I will research this subject and write an article about my findings in the near future. In the meantime, it is probably advisable to avoid any new mercury fillings.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

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Exercise, tinnitus & fluid in the ear

Dear Barry,

I am a former professional World Champion kickoxer. I have had tinnitus since Nov 1, 2008 when I got hit in the ear during my retirement match. When I got hit I had instant vertigo and ringing in my left ear. After the fight I had a faint ring in my ear but I ignored it thinking it was a burst ear drum, which I had before. After a month of rest I went back to the gym to work out. Mid way through the work out the vertigo returned and the slight ringing went up to a loud whistle.

I went to the ENT doctor who hypothesized that the inflammation in my ear was causing the vertigo and the ringing. He told me that as the inflammation went away that the ringing would gradually go away. I returned after six weeks for a checkup. He said that the inflammation was gone and asked how the tinnitus was I told him there was no change. He suggested that I start taking the Arches Tinnitus Relief Formula, which I have and it seems to help the intensity.

However, when I go to lift weights and do cardio (especially kick boxing) the volume increases. I tried wearing earplugs, which actually made it worse. My question is why does my tinnitus increase while I am doing a kick boxing work out? Also, is it common for a person with tinnitus to have fluid on the ear? I have had fluid on my ear on and off ever since the fight. I was told to take antihistamines which helps but never totally gets rid of it.

Thanks Ronnie

Dear Ronnie,

I’m sorry about your injury. These types of injuries frequently cause tinnitus. There is damage to the cochlea, the auditory nerve or the auditory cortex. I’m happy our products have helped and suggest you stay with them.

I wouldn’t worry about the increase in tinnitus during or shortly after a workout. It is common for tinnitus to increase during exercise. The reason is the increase in blood pressure and heart rate caused by the workout. There is no damage done and the ringing should decline when the heart rate lowers. In fact, regular exercise is generally helpful for tinnitus.

It is not common for there to be fluid in the ears with tinnitus. This is a common and treatable condition but should be looked at. Fluid in the ears is called otitis media and can lead to infection. Dr. Michael Seidman typically treats his patients with a prescription nasal spray, such as Flonase or Rhinocort, along with an antihistamine. This works for most patients. For those who do not benefit from it, he offers to place a pressure equalization tube through the ear drum to equalize it. Everyone who has otitis media has hearing loss so this may be the cause of your tinnitus. I urge you to have a complete workup by a competent ENT to try to resolve this.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

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The Mind versus Neuromonics

Hi Barry,

I spoke with a hearing-aid salesman who told me about "The Mind”, by Widex. He said that it makes Neuromonics obsolete in that it has five "chime" programs. It can be worn at night, and one can fall asleep using it. One listens to music with Neuromonics, and in doing so, one's brain grasps on to the music and it begins the "looping" affect. I have musical tinnitus, whereby a "tune" such as "doe a deer, a female deer…" kicks in and it repeats itself, over and over...as you well know...the "loop" effect. Fortunately, I haven't heard that for a long time. “The Mind” hearing aid costs $3k each! Is the quality of hearing aid part of “The Mind”, of good quality? Do the "chimes" really work better than Neuromonics and if so, why haven't there been articles on it? What are your thoughts on, pros and cons, on this device?

Thanks so much, Barry!! Alec

Hi Alec,

Thanks for your question. I had not heard of Widex hearing aids or their ability to help cope with tinnitus. After a search and study on their website I found they claim to be a superior hearing aid and the Mind offers a harmonic sound program that helps the tinnitus patient to relax and distracts from the tinnitus.

From our previous knowledge of tinnitus masking, we know that there are three kinds of hearing aid. The basic hearing aid may be helpful for tinnitus but only if the tinnitus is in the frequency range of speech, or the mid-range. Then there is a tinnitus masker, which is not a hearing aid but produces a sound that helps distract the mind from tinnitus. The third kind is termed a tinnitus instrument. This is a device that is part hearing aid and part tinnitus masker. This is the most effective hearing aid for people with tinnitus and has the highest acceptance among tinnitus sufferers. A complete article on tinnitus masking can be seen in our Tinnitus library.

I would place the Widex Mind in the category of a tinnitus instrument. I don't know the level of quality of the hearing aid itself but it may be of benefit for people with tinnitus. There are many manufacturers of tinnitus instruments that should be compared to Widex. It is not, however, in the same category of devices as Neuromonics.

Neuromonics, like Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) that preceded it, is not a hearing aid at all. It is a device that uses music, not to mask tinnitus but to help the reprogram the brain so it no longer pays attention to the tinnitus.

If the treatment is successful in the tinnitus patient, the patient no longer needs to use the device and tinnitus annoyance will be greatly reduced. Then, if hearing is impaired, a simple hearing aid will help with speech recognition.

Clinical studies, sponsored by Neuromonics, have shown it to be successful in doing this. It takes about six months to be effective and costs approximately $5,000.00. One unanswered question is: how long the reprogramming will last? Studies are underway, which the company hopes to show that it can last up to three years.

So, a tinnitus instrument will provide sound amplification and an additional sound that helps distract from the tinnitus. Neuromonics and TRT seek to reprogram the brain so it no longer concentrates on the tinnitus. These are two very different scenarios.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

NOTE: "Ask Barry" is pleased to be able to answer your questions based upon the information we have available. Our answers to your email inquiries are not substitutes for a physician's advice nor are they reviewed by a physician. If you are under a physician's care, please share with your doctor any suggestions you have received from Ask Barry.