By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.
I first noticed my tinnitus when I was in my early twenties. For the next two decades I was involved in a terrible struggle to stay composed while the constant ringing in my ears was threatening to destroy my sanity and ability to lead a productive life. Now, as I approach 70, I still have tinnitus but it is much reduced. I don’t think about it often and notice it only when I’m in a quiet environment. This is the story of my struggles and how eventually I found tinnitus relief. It is also the story of the founding of Arches Natural Products, Inc. and the development of Arches Tinnitus Formulas.
Ringing In the Ears
My tinnitus is the most common form; noise-induced hearing loss which leads to tinnitus and is predominantly in my right ear. The hearing loss resulted from my time in the military in the early 1960’s. At that time no one thought about hearing protection on the firing range and earmuffs or earplugs were not provided.
After the military I came home and went to work in a copper refinery while I started college. The refinery was amazingly loud, over 90 dB continuously, which can cause hearing damage in 30 minutes. Again, no hearing protection was provided at that time.
After working there a couple of years, I started noticing a ringing sound in my right ear. Over time it became louder and was getting to the point where it was disturbing me. I consulted with an Ear, Nose & Throat physician who gave me a hearing exam. He discovered I had hearing loss at 4,000 Hz and higher. He said nothing could be done about this and I should learn to live with it.
“Learn to live with it.”
The tinnitus was continuously bothersome and distracting. At the time I had a job as an industrial controls company representative. This involved driving long distances as I called on industrial companies, power plants and manufacturers in Utah, southern Wyoming and southern Idaho. I remember that I used to mask the tinnitus by lowering the passenger side window about 2 inches (the tinnitus was in my right ear). The sound of the wind blowing through that small opening at 70 miles per hour was pretty loud but that’s what it took to cover the sound of the ringing in my ears.
Stress is a great aggravator of tinnitus. In my mid-thirties I was a bachelor and fairly settled into it. I wasn’t in a great hurry to get married. But when I met my future wife, Nancy, life started changing. We dated for two years before getting engaged. I decided to ask Nancy to marry me and was not pressured or manipulated. Nonetheless, this produced a tremendous amount of stress for me.
Nancy had been married previously and had two small boys, one 9 and the other 5. I really didn’t know what I was getting into and was so conflicted and stressed that my tinnitus really spiked. It went up and down depending on the stress of the times. It was never good but it could get really, really bad if I was stressed.
I married Nancy when I was 38 years old. In June of 2015 we will celebrate our 32nd anniversary. As with most marriages, we’ve had great times and tough times, but we hung with it and are very happy we did. Together we raised the boys and are now very close to them, their families and children. Nancy and I have six grandchildren that we love very much.
A few years later, still struggling with very loud tinnitus, I was feeling close to a nervous breakdown. I consulted a psychiatrist who taught me some relaxation exercises and prescribed Valium. The Valium helped much more than the exercises and did reduce the sound of the tinnitus. Valium is a benzodiazepine medication that activates GABA in the brain, which produces a calm feeling. It is also a very dangerous medication. It is highly addicting and requires increasing dosages over time as the body becomes used to it. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be very difficult and many people are not able to get off them. Learn more about benzodiazepine withdrawal and tinnitus.
I was still in a difficult situation. The Valium was helping but it made me very sluggish, my thinking process was dulled and my judgment unreliable. It became difficult to keep the job I had. I tried to stay off the Valium and would stop from time to time. After a while the tinnitus would flare up and I would start taking the drug again. It seemed like a never-ending cycle of drugs and loud ringing. I didn’t know what I was going to do and, at times, had thoughts that I could not continue living this way for the rest of my life.
In my late 40’s I was desperate for a better solution and tried finding out for myself what I could do that would be helpful. I came across clinical studies from Europe that showed the herb Ginkgo biloba was beneficial for people with tinnitus and was prescribed for it in Germany.
I learned that in Germany and France, Ginkgo biloba is a prescription drug in any dosage over 60 mg. It is also the second most prescribed medication in those countries. In the United States it is an over-the-counter herb.
The German Commission E is a division of the German Federal Health Commission and is considered to be the world’s foremost authority on the use of herbal medications. After reviewing 38 double-blind, placebo controlled studies the Commission E recommended Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus treatment in a dosage of 480 mg per day.
I bought a bottle of ginkgo capsules at a health food store and started taking a very high dose of it, about 1,000 mg per day. This was foolish of me, as I didn’t know what side effects the high dose would cause but I was desperate to find some relief. Fortunately, there were no side effects that I noticed.
I continued with this high dose for 2-3 months. When tinnitus relief came for me it was pretty sudden. I remember very clearly how I woke up one morning and something was different; it was quieter than normal. It was a very strange feeling. The tinnitus was not gone but it was reduced by about 50%, which was a blessing and a great relief. For the first time in many years I was able to sit in a quiet room and read a book without paying attention to the tinnitus.
Forming Arches Natural Products
I took Ginkgo biloba for several years and my tinnitus slowly continued to improve. It was eventually reduced by about 65%. My longtime friend and business partner, Brent Curtis, and I were looking for a business to start where we could work for ourselves. We looked into several types of business ideas but didn’t find anything that resonated with us.
I was still unsure of myself and scared of even talking about tinnitus. I had spent so many years fighting it; I thought if I were to talk about it, it might make it worse again. Finally, though, I screwed up my courage enough to suggest to Brent that we start a business for people with tinnitus. Brent readily agreed and suggested the name Arches Tinnitus Formula®.
We combined pharmaceutical-grade Ginkgo biloba with odor-controlled garlic, which is known for purifying the blood, reducing blood pressure and reducing cholesterol build-up, which slows blood flow to the inner ear. Later, we learned that zinc has a very positive effect on tinnitus and included zinc picolinate in the formula.
We incorporated as Arches Natural Products, Inc. in Salt Lake City, UT in September 1998. We launched a website for our product a couple of months later. At the time, we were the first company to offer an herbal treatment for tinnitus. Now, 16 years later, we remain the only company on the market that offers a scientifically proven tinnitus treatment with over 35 clinical studies showing the effectiveness of the individual ingredients.
Tinnitus can cause an undue amount of stress. Researching this, I found a relationship between the health of the nervous system and the amount of B vitamins consumed. B vitamins are in many foods but cooking and food processing easily destroy them. Also, they are water-soluble so they need to be renewed on a daily basis. B vitamins act as natural anti-depressants, improve energy production and stabilize the nervous system.
This information led to the development of Arches Tinnitus Stress Formula®, a high potency B vitamin complex, and Arches Tinnitus B12 Formula®, a sublingual B12 lozenge for easier absorption. Combined with the Tinnitus Formula, these products formed the basis for Arches Tinnitus Combo Pack.
Arches began attending the annual conventions of the American Academy of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat physicians) in 2001. We attend every convention and discuss our products with the ENTs in attendance. I also attend the annual meeting of the International Tinnitus Forum, which is held in conjunction with the convention. At the Tinnitus Forum, researchers from around the world present their findings on the causes and possible treatments for tinnitus. I report on this meeting and produce articles and tinnitus info in our monthly newsletter, Quiet Times Tinnitus Newsletter. Interested readers can sign up to receive the newsletter here.
We had been sending the Quiet Times newsletter for a couple of years. During this time, I received a number of questions from readers about tinnitus. I was unable to answer some of these questions. Many were well thought out and beyond my knowledge. Tinnitus is a brain condition and, as such, it is extremely varied with many conditions contributing to it. I had to conduct research to answer some of these questions.
We decided to start a column called Ask Barry and add it into the monthly newsletter. This generated more questions and more challenges for me. I have learned much of what I know about tinnitus from the questions asked by our readers. It’s a great source of information for me to research a question I had not thought to ask myself.
The Ask Barry column was later split off from the monthly newsletter so we broadcast both of them at different times of the month. Signing up for the Quiet Times newsletter automatically includes the Ask Barry column.
To date, over two thousand ENT physicians have refered their tinnitus patients to our products. Most doctors report about a 60-65% success rate in reducing tinnitus for their patients overall. They are generally very happy with this, as there is nothing else on the market that is this effective. One very prominent Manhattan ENT, Darius Kohan, MD, took the trouble to look carefully at his patients who have tinnitus due to noise-induced hearing loss, which is exactly what I have. He reports that among this group, he has a 75-80% improvement rate. Noise exposure is responsible for at least 70% of tinnitus cases.
New Product Development for Tinnitus Treatment
Throughout our company life we have realized the important role that Ginkgo biloba plays in our products. One of the problems with ginkgo is it is quite expensive which has led to a lot of adulteration in the ginkgo market. Unscrupulous manufacturers found ways to add cheaper components that were ineffective and not easily detected during standard testing methods.
By 2003, Consumer Lab reported that 75% of ginkgo products sold in American health food stores did not meet the minimum 24/6 requirements for standardized Ginkgo biloba Extract (GbE). We were very insistent that our ginkgo would be the best we could possibly find even though this made it quite a bit more expensive.
Having worked with ginkgo for so long, I became knowledgeable about exactly what components were helpful for people with tinnitus. I wanted to produce a higher quality, stronger Ginkgo biloba specifically designed for tinnitus treatment.
For me, this is one of Arches’ most significant achievements. Beginning in 2012, I started searching for a raw material manufacturer who would be able to supply us with a custom designed Ginkgo biloba product. We found such a company in California and began designing the product. Standardized Ginkgo is a 24/6 extract; 24% ginkgo flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones.
We increased the ginkgo flavone glycosides from the standard 24% to a have a minimum of 26%. We increased the terpene lactones from 6% to have a minimum of 7%. These are the components responsible for increased circulation in the inner ear and antioxidant properties.
Perhaps most importantly, we increased the bilobalide levels found in the terpene lactones. Bilobalide is responsible for glutamate antagonism and neuroprotection, so critical for tinnitus relief. It is required to constitute 2.6% to meet the requirement of standardized Ginkgo biloba. In truth, most American ginkgo contains less than 0.5% bilobalide. Our new requirement would boost bilobalide to a minimum of 3.6%. This is the primary reason why most people who try over-the-counter ginkgo for their tinnitus do not have satisfactory results.
In 2014, we were awarded the trademark Ginkgo Max 26/7® from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We can proudly promise our customers they are receiving the very finest ginkgo product offered anywhere in the world. All of the other components we use in our products are also the subjects of rigorous testing to ensure they are of the highest quality. It is Ginkgo biloba, though, that is subject to adulteration and has to be carefully monitored.
As any ENT physician will confirm, there is no “cure” for tinnitus, despite many such claims found on the Internet. However, I along with many others have found, in Arches Tinnitus Formulas, a management solution that meets or exceeds other credible treatments that are much more expensive and time consuming.
Today, I have dedicated my life to help people who suffer from tinnitus enjoy a reduction of their symptoms and an improved quality of life. Arches is continually engaged in the search for improved treatment options and advances in supplemental therapies. It is my hope that my story and Arches’ products can be of real benefit to you and your recovery from tinnitus.
To learn the latest news and developments in tinnitus treatment, visit the Arches Natural Products Tinnitus Library.