Tinnitus, commonly referred to as ringing in the ears, or “phantom noise,” is clinically described as the perception of sound in the absence of an acoustic stimulus. The tone heard by those suffering from tinnitus varies. Some describe the sound as a soft whir, such as from an electric fan or microwave oven. Others have described the phantom noise as a high pitched screeching sound, like that of a power tool. One person may even experience several types of tones at different times. Whatever the tone may be, very little is understood about tinnitus, common though it may be.
Although rarely discussed among friends, ringing in the ears is one of the most common clinical complaints reported in the United States. Twelve percent of men and fourteen per cent of women who are 65 years of age or older report hearing some sort of ringing in the ears. This condition seems to rarely affect younger individuals, with one significant exception: those serving in the armed forces. Tinnitus affects nearly half of the soldiers who have been exposed to loud blasting in Afghanistan.
In many cases, tinnitus may be caused by several different conditions involving the ears. Age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud sounds, as seen in the soldiers serving in Afghanistan, changes in the eternal structure of the ear, and even a buildup of earwax are all common causes of ringing in the ears. Some rarer causes are tumors in the brain or Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear. Tinnitus can also be an uncommon symptom of adrenal fatigue.
When the body is chronically stressed over a period of time, the adrenal glands may become weakened and hormone output affected. This is adrenal fatigue(AF). While very few people suffer from tinnitus as a direct result of adrenal fatigue, those that do usually have less common symptoms of adrenal fatigue. That is, their manifestation of adrenal fatigue is not lethargy or weakness, although there may be some. These individuals may be under a lot of stress, but their surfacing symptoms of adrenal fatigue is more of a ringing in the ears that seems to appear from nowhere.
If you begin to experience ringing in the ears, you might have gone to numerous doctors, had extensive workups and tests done, consulted an ear nose and throat doctor, had CT scans done, and been prescribed numerous medications, all of which failed to deliver relief. Your doctor may ask you to stop certain types of prescription medicine that have toxic effect on the ear.
At the onset of tinnitus, it is important to take a detailed history of yourself and determine if there may be any other cause of tinnitus. Some researchers are beginning to think that it may have to do with a neurotransmitter, called norepinephrine, that is released from the brain. This norepinephrine may have some way, that we have yet to isolate, of acting as a trigger for tinnitus. We will discuss the effects of norepinephrine in the body further along in this article, however, it can be safely said that if you suffer from tinnitus and your body has been thoroughly examined with everything appearing normal, then it is time to consider Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome as a root cause.
It is important to remember that the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response is also a key factor in the onset of adrenal fatigue, and thus may be causing your combined tinnitus and AFS. The NEM stress response is a series of systems that help the body deal with trauma and stress.
When the NEM stress response is unable to do its job due to adrenal fatigue, there can be neurological side effects, such as tinnitus. Much of the neuro-affect response is regulated by the autonomic nervous system, the brain, and the gut.
Remember that stress responses are initiated in the brain, in the hypothalamus, in a normal hormonal cycle. A variety of neurotransmitters, such as the aforementioned norepinephrine, are released in order to keep our mood in a balanced state, while keeping us in an alert state and keeping up our ability to handle stress. When this flow of hormones is interrupted, various stress-related external conditions occur, such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and even tinnitus. The autonomic system consists of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems, in charge of keeping the body’s general state in balance between “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”. If the sympathetic nervous system is constantly firing off, there might be a higher amount of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the body, thus increasing the chances of getting tinnitus.
Typically, adrenal fatigue induced tinnitus has been found to go away when proper strategies are taken to provide adrenal support and repair the body’s adrenal system. As this recovery is quite common, tinnitus can almost be described as a somewhat benign symptom of adrenal fatigue, unless it is in a very advanced stage, in which case it can be quite debilitating and difficult to alleviate.
In recent years, various forms of nutritional supplements have been successfully used in relieving tinnitus, although a great deal of trial and error is involved, and there is no definite way to say exactly which supplements are helping and why. Vitamin C, B5, fish oil, plant sterols, ginko, melatonin, and zinc that have been shown clinically to help. Maintaining a well hydrated body often helps to reduce the intensity of the tinnitus. Selected position may also be helpful, depending on the person. Because it is quite rare in occurrence, much trial and error is needed even in the best hands of naturally oriented physician, if conventional medicine has no solution.
Tinnitus can be a difficult condition to live with. Hearing a sound that only you can hear may have you questioning yourself and even your sanity. Doctors may not believe you or dismiss it as something insignificant. It is important to remember that tinnitus is indeed a real condition and that if you begin to hear ringing in the ears for an extended period of time, you should insist that your doctor perform tests. If these tests do not show any obvious conditions that may be causing it, you may want to consider treatment for adrenal fatigue.
© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.