• Dr A A Mundewadi

Tinnitus – Ayurvedic Herbal Treatment

Abnormal sounds in the ear are known as tinnitus; these can be of varying types such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping or whistling. The sounds may be continuous or intermittent; and may vary in intensity from being mild – which may be just a nuisance – to severe or very severe, and may adversely affect interpersonal relations and quality of life. It may or may not be associated with hearing loss.

Tinnitus can be caused by excess accumulation of wax in ears; ear or sinus infections; sudden or prolonged exposure to loud sounds; Meniere disease (a disease of the inner ear), otosclerosis (hardening of the middle ear bones); neck and jaw problems; neck and head injury; certain diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, allergies, anemia, underactive thyroid and diabetes; natural aging (due to hardening of arteries and degeneration of sensory hair in the inner ear); and drugs like aspirin, certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, quinine medications, and some diuretics. Tinnitus may be aggravated by fatigue, stress, smoking, and consumption of alcohol or caffeinated drinks.

The standard management of tinnitus involves looking for and treating any known causes for the condition. This includes - as the case may be – wax removal; antibiotic drops and oral medication for infection; medical and surgical treatment for trauma, tumors and otosclerosis; specific treatment of unrelated medical issues which may be the cause for tinnitus; and avoidance of drugs which may be causing or aggravating this condition. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs in low doses are helpful in some people. Sound masking devices may be used to reduce exposure to loud sounds. Tinnitus training therapy, cognitive therapy and biofeedback may also be used to mitigate the effects of tinnitus. While tinnitus may resolve spontaneously in a few individuals, yet, in other affected people, it may not get eliminated or reduced in spite of removing all known causes as well as taking adequate treatment.

Ayurvedic herbal treatment can be given to those affected individuals who have tinnitus refractory to standard treatments and with poor quality of life due to its severity. The primary pathophysiology of tinnitus relates to degeneration and dysfunction of the sensory hair in the inner ears, and distorted auditory input being conveyed to the brain. Treatment is given to reverse or reduce this pathology by using herbal medicines which strengthen and tonify the inner ear components as well as modulate auditory nerve impulses. Most of these herbs also serve to reduce stress and fatigue, which are known to aggravate or amplify the effects of tinnitus.

Additional Ayurvedic treatment is also given to treat specific causes of tinnitus. For otosclerosis, herbal medicines are used which reduce calcification, and make the middle ear bones more pliable and responsive to sound waves. In the case of Meniere’s disease, Ayurvedic medicines are used which reduce the pressure and fluid overload in the inner ears. People with a known history of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease are given herbal medicines which reduce atherosclerosis and stiffening of arteries, and make blood vessels more elastic. Some people with severe tinnitus have a history of serious allergies, and herbal treatment for this brings about significant amelioration of tinnitus symptoms.

Ayurvedic tonics known as Rasayanas are useful in several people with tinnitus; it is believed that these medicines improve digestion and tonify the metabolism of the body at the tissue level as well as at the cellular level. While the use of medicated oils as ear drops in tinnitus treatment is controversial – and especially contraindicated in people with perforated ear drums – this treatment does have a place in softening impacted wax; treating hardened and over-sensitive eardrums; and as additional therapy in aged people. Some medicated oils are mild and have a soothing and strengthening effect, while others are strong and have an irritating or stimulant effect; these have to be selected and used on a case-to-case basis.

Depending upon the severity and cause of tinnitus, most affected people get significant relief or a cure from this condition with about 6 to 8 months of treatment. Ayurvedic herbal treatment can thus be judiciously utilized in the management and treatment of tinnitus.

Tinnitus, Ayurvedic treatment, herbal medicines, hearing loss, inner ear disorder.

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