Alternative treatments may provide hope for decreasing or reversing tinnitus and hearing loss

By Larry Altshuler, M.D.

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lthough hearing loss and tinnitus are common, especially among military personnel, there are basically few methods that conventional medicine has found to correct or reverse these conditions. For hearing loss, hearing aides are beneficial to amplify sounds, but for tinnitus, treatment is much more challenging. Drug therapy, vitamin therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, electrical stimulation, relaxation therapy, counseling, and habituation therapies have all been tried, but have limited success. Tinnitus maskers are beneficial for some people but not for many others. A masker looks like a hearing aid and produces sounds that “mask” or cover up the tinnitus. Different sounds are programmed, depending on your type of ear noise. It is used primarily as a distractor and some people find it preferable to the sound in their heads. It also can be used in combination with a hearing aide. Nevertheless, it does not resolve the tinnitus and can be just as irritating. So what can you do? Well, there is some hope…from the world of alternative medicine. First, there are several herbs and supplements that may be useful. Gingko biloba is the best and has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain. Several studies have shown that gingko can minimize tinnitus. Most herbalists use a dosage of 120-160 mg daily. Gingko works slowly and may take up to eight weeks to have a beneficial effect. There has been some anecdotal evidence that black cohosh, which is used primarily for menopausal symptoms, is useful in alleviating tinnitus, but is best used in combination with gingko. It comes in several forms, w w w. a m e r i f o r c e . n e t

including tincture, decoction or capsules. Sesame seeds have been used by Chinese herbalists as well as in Ayurvedic medicine for treating tinnitus, and can easily be added to food. Other herbs that may help include sunflower seeds and fenugreek seed tea. Onion juice (1 drop three times a week) is a folk remedy for tinnitus. Because zinc deficiency is often associated with tinnitus and certain kinds of hearing loss (especially noise-induced), eating foods high in zinc may be helpful. These include spinach (the best), papaya, collards, brussel sprouts, cucumbers, string beans, endive, cowpeas, prunes and asparagus. There have not been any studies showing that taking zinc alone as a supplement is helpful, although that is a possibility. If you are taking medications, it is advisable to consult your doctor or practitioner before taking herbs since some herbs may interact with your medications. It is also important to obtain herbs from a reputable company since many products in health food stores do not contain the ingredients listed on the labels. Chinese medicine is another method that may help tinnitus. According to the Chinese, there are several different underlying syndromes that can cause tinnitus, so you should seek a certified Chinese herbalist. Formulas containing the herb Rehmannia, such as Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan or Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, can be useful, as can the formula Long Dan Xie Gan Wan. Acupuncture may be the most useful treatment for tinnitus as well as hearing loss, and is often used with Chinese herbs. Acupuncture uses small needles, the size of a hair, and usually 8-12 needles are required. You should observe initial benefits within eight to 10 treatments, although more sessions may be necessary to obtain maximum benefit. Approximately 40-50 percent of people with tinnitus obtain benefits from acupuncture, so it is worth a try. There are many different styles of acupuncture, so be sure to find an acupuncturist that has had success with these conditions. Another alternative method that may be of benefit is homeopathy. Like Chinese medicine, homeopathy works on a

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completely different set of principles to that of conventional medicine. Homeopathy uses infinitely small doses of substances that in normal people will cause symptoms of tinnitus, but in those with the condition, it can often reverse it. Although homeopathy does not make much sense to conventional medicine, many studies have proven its effectiveness. There are many homeopathic remedies for tinnitus and hearing loss, depending on the total complex of symptoms. Chininum sulphuricum is used for ringing, buzzing and roaring sounds that are loud enough to impair hearing. Graphites are used if there is associated deafness and for hissing and clicking sounds, or even louder sounds like gunshots. Kali carbonicum is useful for ringing or roaring, accompanied by cracking noises and itching in the ears. Lycopodium is for humming and roaring along with hearing impairment or sounds that seem to echo. A low, dull hum might respond to natrum salicylicum. Salicylicum acidum is indicated for loud roaring or ringing, accompanied by deafness or vertigo. Because there are so many different remedies, you should definitely consult with a certified homeopathist to help you determine the best remedy for your symptoms. Although partial relief can occur in a few days, it usually takes 4-8 weeks to obtain substantial relief. Finally, you should avoid various substances and events that can worsen tinnitus and hearing loss. Continued loud noises of course will make your condition worse, so hearing protection is vital. Avoid medications that can cause tinnitus, the most common being aspirin products, but also anti-malarials, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anti-depressants may cause an increase in symptoms. Finally, you should realize that the longer these conditions have been present, the more difficult and the longer it takes to resolve them, so don’t wait long to obtain proper treatment. As a general rule of thumb for homeopathy, for every year that a disease has manifested, it takes about a month of treatment to obtain maximum benefit. Most herbs take at least two months for initial benefits. Acupuncture may be the fastest, depending how frequently you attend. So, if you have tinnitus and/or hearing

loss, don’t despair. There may be an alternative method that can help you. Recommended reference sites: Acupuncture: www.NCCAOM.org Herbs: www.NaturalDataBase.com Homeopathy: www.homeopathic.org For more information about tinnitus, visit the American Tinnitus Association at www.ata.org.

BIOGRAPHICAL: LARRY ALTSHULER, M.D.
Dr. Altshuler graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in 1972, and received his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1976. A board certified Internist since 1979, he founded the Balanced Healing Medical Center, a unique health care clinic in Oklahoma City that combines the use of conventional medicine with alternative methods. Besides his conventional medical education, he is also trained in acupuncture, hypnosis, mind-body medicine, Western and Chinese

herbology, and QiGong. Dr. Altshuler specializes in the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain, injuries and chronic diseases, as well as performing research in low level energy lasers and acupuncture. Dr. Altshuler’s book, Balanced Healing: Combining Modern Medicine with Safe and Effective Alternative Therapies, was released in February, 2004 and was awarded the USA Book News “Best Book 2004” in the health category. This extensive book is a culmination of his 30 years experience in alternative therapies and provides step-by-step action plans to treat almost every common ailment and information on the best treatment options from the worlds of both conventional and alternative medicine. He also is the author of The Bird Flu Primer and has four more Balanced Healing Series books to be released in 2007. In addition, Dr. Altshuler has published several scientific articles on Alternative Medicine and Acupuncture. Dr. Altshuler has lectured extensively and has appeared as a guest on television and radio both regionally and nationally.

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