Tinnitus is feeling or hearing ringing, swishing, clicking, buzzing whistling, etc types of noise in the ear or head. Most of us suffer from tinnitus for a short period of time. But in some, it persists for longer. It is felt rather as a nuisance by the patient, than suffering.
In Ayurveda it is termed as Karnanada. Karna means ear, Nada means sound.
Ayurveda recognises another condition of ear disease where the patient feels single kind of unnatural sound. This is referred as Karnakshweda. Both these terms are correlated with tinnitus.
Origin Of Tinnitus
When the vitiated Vata dosha enters in different pathways or the ear, the individual feels different sounds or various frequencies. Thus the condition Tinnitus is resulted.
Excess cold water head bath – For a long period of time, especially in old age, causes Vata imbalance.
Vata increasing food and habits – such as excess travelling, being awake at night, having excess bitter, spicy and astringent foods etc.
Stress and strain
Loss of sleep
Debility and exhaustion
Constant headache or the diseases of the scalp etc.
Improper errhine (Nasya) therapy
Tinnitus can be caused by hearing loss in elders. This can happen because of damage to cochlea. Because of ageing and tissue degeneration, cochlea fails to send proper audio signals to brain, leading to buzzing sound.
Loud noise exposure for prolonged period of time
Continuous usage of headphones
Drugs such as aspirin, Antibiotics, names ending with mycin, and quinine
Meniere’s disease having other symptoms such as dizziness, fullness of ears / hearing loss. It is a disorder of the inner ear, causing instant vertigo.
Brain tumour – acoustic neuroma
Pulsating type of tinnitus is usually due to abnormal blood flow in the blood pipes of the ear. It is seen during pregnancy, hyperthyroidism and high BP.
Clicking type of tinnitus can be caused due to jaw joint misalignment.
In many cases, depression and anxiety patients suffer from tinnitus.
Very thick ear wax deposition, damaging the ear, can cause tinnitus.
Diseases where tinnitus occurs as a symptom: Pandu – Liver disorders (reference: Charaka Samhita, Chikitsa sthana 16)
Hearing buzzing, hissing, swishing types of sound.
Sometimes associated with hearing loss and dizziness.
Based on symptoms, there are two types of tinnitus :
1. Subjective tinnitus – Only you can hear it.
2. Objective – both you and the doctor, while examining can hear it. Usually caused due to blood pipe / ear bone problems.
Ayurveda Acharya Videha, an expert of ENT disorders explained that, in Karnakshweda person listens the sound similar to the noise of flute.
If we analyse these two ear conditions, it appears that the Karnanada is the condition of conductive deafness. Here there will be obstruction in the pathway of the conduction of sound.
Karnakshweda is originated due to the debility or fatigue. Otherwise, it is a direct result of diminished strength of the auditory nerves. So, it can be co-related to nervous deafness.
Confusion between tinnitus and auditory hallucination:
Hallucination is hearing particular sound – as if someone is talking, some animal is making noise, bees are surrounding the person and making sound etc. It is often seen in psychiatric disorders
Tinnitus is hearing hissing, buzzing type of noise. It is seen in neurological disorders along with stress, depression etc.
Treatment for Tinnitus as per Ayurveda:
Becaue Vata is the controlling Dosha of the ears, and because tinnitus is caused due to Vata imbalance, all measures for Vata pacification is indicated.
1. Ghrita Pana – Administration of cow ghee, in a dose of 1 – 2 teaspoon per day, pacifies Vata and improves the strength of the nerves.
2. Rasayana – Anti ageing therapies. Especially in elderly patients, Herbs with anti ageing properties and high nutrition value are administered – Amalaki (Gooseberry), Paribhadra (Erythrina varigata), Bala (Sida cordifolia) are helpful in this regard.
3. Snehana – Applying oil, around the ear and to the scalp pacifies Vata dosha and strengthens the nerves and muscles. Hence the improvement is observed. Bilva taila, Kshara taila, Ksheerabala taila etc are administered.
4. Shamana oushadha – Medicines which pacify Vata are helpful to relieve the complaint of Tinnitus.
5. Treating the underlying disease causing tinnitus – Treatment for depression, hyperthyroidism, high BP.
Single herbs useful in Tinnitus:
1. Paribhadra – Erythrina indica
2. Bala – Sida cordifolia
3. Sariva – Hemidesmus indicus
4. Amalaki (Amla) – Emblica officinalis
6. Gokshura – Tribulus terrestris
7. Yashtimadhu – Glycyrrhiza glabra (Indian liquorice)
Formulations useful in Tinnitus:
Sarivadi Vati – used in Tinnitus, hearing loss, ear infection etc.
Amalaki Rasayana – useful for anti ageing treatment
Saptamrita Loha – used in the treatment of eye, ear disorders, gastritis, abdominal colic, etc.
Bilva Taila – used in the treatment of ear pain, hearing loss / difficulties and tinnitus.
Ashwagandharishta – strengthens nerves, useful in depression, stress
Balarishta – a very good nervine tonic
Shatapaka bala Taila
Mashabaladi Kashaya – used in the treatment of paralysis, facial palsy, neck rigidity, tinnitus etc.
Shadbindu Tail and Anu tail – used for Nasya to pacify vata in the ear, nose, throat region.
Wholesome diet and habits
Wholesome diets and habits in Tinnitus:
1. Vishrama – Rest
2. Snehana – Oleation (Application of oil to the scalp)
3. Ghrita pana – Intake of ghee along with food
4. Ksheera paka – Medicated milk
5. Kavala and Gandoosha – (Oil pulling and retention of oil in the oral cavity) etc.
Unwholesome diet and habits
Unwholesome diet and habits in Tinnitus:
1. Vyayama – Heavy exercise
2. Sheeta jala snana – Cold water head bath
3. Bhashana – Prolonged speech
4. Vatala Ahara – Vatic food and habits
5. Ratri jagarana – Night awakening
6. Kashaya- Tiktatisevana – Food and beverages possessing bitter and astringent taste etc.
Lifestyle tips for tinnitus
Avoid hearing loud music, loud noises, and headphones. For example, while travelling in a vehicle, keep the windows closed.
When you are surrounded by loud noise, as in a sport event, club etc, wear hearing protection or some cloth band covering ears, to protect your ears from the noises.
Stress worsens tinnitus. Hence, follow relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, drinking a cup of water, talking to your friend etc, while under stress.
Caffeine may worsen it. Avoid it.
Avoid aspirin or aspirin products in large quantities.
Stress management in patients often results in decrease or cure of tinnitus.
For those who experience tinnitus while asleep, sound of fan or radio may act as counter noise, helping to relieve the buzzing sound.
Smokers and alcoholics have high risk of tinnitus, so quit them.
Sleeping problems worsen it. Hence sleep better with these tips
Pranayama for tinnitus
Pranayama techniques that require you to hold your breath for long time or those involving heavy breathing, may worsen tinnitus. Hence, follow those techniques, such as Anulom – Vilom Pranayam.
If you are suffering from side effects of Pranayama, but are suffering from vomiting sensation etc, then avoid it and consult a Yoga therapist for advice.
Living with tinnitus
If you have tried all treatment methods, still you are hearing that sound, then just live with, ignoring it, without being too anxious to get rid of it.
Tinnitus is a discomforting symptom, seen in more men than in women. Even though it is neglected as a simple complaint, prolonged discomfort causes depression in few individuals. So, immediate attention and treatment will help to manage the condition better.
Article by Dr Krishnamurthy and Dr Hebbar