Ears ringing? Zinc can help tinnitus
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Have you ever heard a bee buzzing in your ear, tried to swat it away and found nothing there? Or perhaps you hear a clicking or ringing noise in your house when no one else in your household does. If you're the only one hearing these noises, don't worry – you're not losing your mind. Hearing a constant noise in your head can be an annoying problem, but it is rarely serious. It's usually indicative of a condition called tinnitus. Once you become aware of the symptoms, tinnitus can be managed with a healthy lifestyle and the right nutrients. When it comes to natural remedies for ringing in the ears, zinc is a powerful mineral that can be used as part of an effective treatment.
Tinnitus – what is it?
Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears, but it's not limited to that sound. Common tinnitus noises include:
- Ringing like a phone
- Buzzing like a bee
- Clicking like a pen
- Hissing like a leaky tire
These noises can last from minutes to hours, but if symptoms worsen or cause disturbance to your daily life, it's best to seek medical help. Your healthcare practitioner can help you determine what is causing your tinnitus, as well as the best course of treatment.
There are two different types of tinnitus that can occur – one that's fairly common, and one that's much rarer.
People who have subjective tinnitus perceive sound when there is no external source. They are the only ones who hear the noise, which can be a frustrating nuisance. The sounds they hear may come and go, or never stop. There is no single cause for subjective tinnitus, but research shows that certain triggers can cause this experience.
This type of tinnitus is extremely rare. Similar to subjective tinnitus, people with objective tinnitus can also hear constant ringing or buzzing noises. But in the case of objective tinnitus, the noise comes from within the body system. For example, an individual with objective tinnitus may be hearing their increased blood flow, muscles contracting, or even vibrations in the ear. It's kind of like "super-hearing", but for sounds that are usually blocked out by the body. Because the sound is coming from a source, sometimes other people may be able to hear it too.
Factors that may trigger tinnitus
Buildup of earwax
Sometimes the internal canal of the ears can become filled with fluid, dried earwax, or other foreign materials, creating a blockage. As the pressure in the ears changes as a result of this, the tissue can become damaged and result in tinnitus.
It may be tempting to get the q-tips out, but swabbing your ears out in this way is not considered safe. This method of cleaning comes with potential consequences like impacted earwax and punctured eardrums. For those who frequently experience a buildup of earwax, talk to your healthcare practitioner. The typical treatment for this is to have your doctor flush the earwax out with a simple solution injected into the ear canal.
Have you ever had ringing in your ears after a loud concert? When we are exposed to loud noises for long periods of time, the tiny sensory cells in our inner ear can become damaged. People who work in noisy environments such as factory workers, construction crews, and musicians often develop tinnitus over time if they are continuously exposed. Wearing earplugs if you work in these environments is a good way to preserve hearing and avoid potential tinnitus.
Blood vessel disorders
In many cases of objective tinnitus, the narrowing of veins can cause blood flow to move with more force. As the blood travels through veins, it may produce a whooshing sound that can be heard by the individual experiencing it. Conditions such as high blood pressure, head and neck tumors, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can make tinnitus symptoms more severe.
Age-related hearing loss
Even though tinnitus may seem like the opposite problem, it can be one of the first signs of hearing loss in older people. How can hearing more noises be a sign of hearing loss? Well, as we age, the cells in our ears may weaken or become damaged from daily use. These cells are responsible for turning sound wave vibrations into signals that reach the brain. When ear cells lose their function, the brain gets less information from the ear. The body then compensates by becoming more sensitive and perceiving more sounds. This is why some older people may be more sensitive to loud noise.
Medication side effects
Tinnitus can develop as a side effect of certain medications. Prescription drugs that are known to cause tinnitus include cancer drugs, diuretics, antimalarial drugs, antidepressants, some antibiotics, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The effects are temporary – once you stop taking these drugs, the unwanted noise goes away.
Can zinc protect against tinnitus?
Researchers don't know for certain if tinnitus can be cured, but the symptoms can certainly be managed with the right nutrients. Zinc is a mineral that plays a powerful role in the hearing pathway and can be used to manage symptoms of tinnitus.
Zinc can fight ear cell injuries
If you were ever told as a teen to turn the music down, the warning was indeed warranted. Long-term exposure to intense noise can injure the cells in the ear canal. As an antioxidant, zinc protects the ear cells from free radical production and permanent damage, making it one of the best defenders against noise-induced hearing loss.
The link between zinc deficiency and tinnitus
Without enough zinc in the blood, the body cannot spare enough zinc to act as protection from hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms. Studies confirm that many tinnitus patients are already deficient in zinc. The lower the zinc levels, the more severe the tinnitus can become. Furthermore, the risk of zinc deficiency and hearing loss increases with age, so it's important to ensure adequate zinc levels through diet and supplementation.
Finding relief with zinc
In addition to eating a zinc-rich diet, supplementing with zinc ensures that you have adequate zinc stores to protect your ear cells and keep your hearing functioning optimally. Whether you want to protect against potential tinnitus or are looking for the ringing in your ear to finally come to an end, zinc can help.