What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It is a common problem with predictable symptoms, affecting about 1 in 5 people worldwide. Fortunately, Ayurveda recognizes the symptoms of tinnitus and recommends various remedies for tinnitus relief.
Tinnitus is very common in the U.S. affecting an estimated 50 million adults.1 Tinnitus is not a condition in itself. It is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, or a circulatory system disorder.
Tinnitus involves the sensation of hearing sounds when no external sounds are present. Tinnitus symptoms include the following types of phantom noises in the ears.2
With tinnitus, the noise is usually a buzzing or ringing sound, but it may be a clicking or rushing sound as well. The sound is sometimes accompanied by hearing loss and dizziness in a syndrome called Meniere’s disease.
Based on the symptoms, tinnitus is classified as the following.
- Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus only you can hear. This is the most common type of tinnitus. It can be caused by ear problems in your outer, middle or inner ear.
It also can be caused by problems with the hearing (auditory) nerves or the part of your brain that interprets nerve signals as sound (auditory pathways).
- Objective tinnitus is the tinnitus your doctor can hear when they do an examination. This rare type may be caused by a blood vessel problem, a middle ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
When To See A Doctor
- If you have tinnitus that bothers you, see your doctor.
- You develop tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, and your tinnitus doesn’t improve within a week.
- You have tinnitus that occurs suddenly or without an apparent cause.
- You have hearing loss or dizziness with the tinnitus.
Tinnitus In Ayurveda
According to Ayurveda, tinnitus is correlated to karna naad, where ‘karna’ means ear and ‘naad’ means sounds. Ayurveda recognizes another condition associated with perceiving a single sound.
This is referred to as Karna swed. In karna swed, only a single sound that sounds like a flute is perceived. In this condition, the Vata dosha is associated with other doshas that get localized in the ears.
According to Ayurveda, when a vitiated Vata dosha enters a faulty passage and gets localized in the ears, one can perceive various sounds. This is Karna Naad (tinnitus).3
When this vitiated Vata dosha is associated with Kapha dosha and gets localized in the ears, it results in Badhirya or deafness.4
The Vata dosha is composed of air and space mahabhutas. In Ayurveda, the mahabhutas are the basic elements that constitute all matter.
When a vitiated Vata dosha enters a faulty passage and gets localized in the ears, one can perceive various sounds
If Vata becomes vitiated, air and space elements increase in the physiology and disturb the finely orchestrated movements required for all the normal bodily functions.
This can lead to a variety of manifestations including but not limited to tension headaches, insomnia, dryness in the external sense organs, tinnitus, dry scalp, dry skin, constipation, tendency to feel unstable, forgetful, disorganized, anxiousness, nervousness etc.
Videha, an ancient ayurvedic scholar and practitioner on ENT disorders (Shalakya Tantra) explains another ear condition called karna swed, where a person hears sounds like that of a flute.
The symptoms of tinnitus are similar to this condition. Ayurveda recognizes tinnitus and karna swed as two separate disorders.
This condition, karna swed, can be due to debility, fatigue, or it may be the direct result of the weakening of the auditory nerves.
Ayurvedic Treatments And Remedies For Tinnitus Relief
Since this is a Vata disorder, the following tinnitus relief remedies are Vata-pacifying measures indicated for treating this condition. If you try these measures for tinnitus relief but don’t find them helpful, consult your doctor or a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.
- The patient should undergo unction (snehana) and purgation with oily formulations like castor oil and then treated with Vata alleviating fomentations such as nadi swed (tube fomentation) and pind swed (bolus fomentation).5
- Ghrita Paan (Consuming Ghee). Ghee is Vata pacifying, administering ghee made from cow’s milk in a dose of 1-2 teaspoons pacifies Vata and strengthens the nerves.
- Vishram (rest). Rest is of utmost importance to balance Vata.
- Snehan (oleation therapy). Oleation or application of oil around the ears, oil drops into the ears and oil massage on the scalp
- Abhyanga (Massage). Oil massage strengthens the nerves and the muscle. Shiro Abhyanga (head massage) and padabhyanga (foot massage), wherein the soles of the feet are massaged with warm sesame oil, has a specific effect in calming the prana vayu.
- Vata pacifying and Rasayana herbs like Bala, Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and others are helpful in this condition
- Nasya (nasal insufflation) with Anu Taila (oil) or Shadbindu Taila (oil) is indicated.
- Karna Purana. Pouring medicated sesame oil into the affected ear(s) is also indicated.
- Kavala and Gandush. Oil pulling and holding oil in the mouth.
Dietary Recommendations For Tinnitus Relief
Vata dosha influences all types of movements in the body and the movement of prana flow, nerve impulses, thoughts, and bodily fluids.
Therefore, a Vata pacifying diet is recommended for tinnitus symptoms. Ayurveda suggests the following diet for treating tinnitus symptoms.
- Ksheera Paak i.e. consuming medicated milk. For example, Ashwagandha Kshira Paak is indicated
- As Karna naad is a Vata disorder, healthy Vata decreasing foods and diet is recommended. Having breakfast is mandatory in the case of tinnitus, and it should be warm, milky and sweet.
- Food should be cooked, warm, and moderately heavy.
- Sweet and sour tastes should be included as they are Vata pacifying. Salty taste is also recommended in moderate amounts unless it is medically contraindicated.
- Avoid dry, raw, and bitter tastes.
- Drink warm water.
- Split yellow moong daal/ green gram kichdi (lentil stew) is a good choice for Vata pacification, it is an easily digestible protein in addition to carbohydrates and fibers.
- Include spices in your diet like cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, cumin, ginger, cloves all Vata pacifying.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other substances which can disturb prana flow
Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before trying tinnitus remedies. See your primary healthcare provider or general physician for a thorough diagnosis and treatment if your tinnitus is severe.
- “Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) Causes and Definition.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-tinnitus-basics#1.
- P.V.Sharma, Sushruta Samhita, Uttara Tantra with Dalhans commentary, English translation, Chaukhamba Vishwa Bharati, Varanasi,verse-7, page no. 235
- P.V. Sharma, Sushruta Samhita, Uttara Tantra with Dalhans commentary, English translations, Chaukhamba Vishwa Bharati, Varanasi, verse-8, pg no. 236
- P.V. Sharma, Sushruta Samhita, Uttara Tantra with Dalhan’s commentary, Chaukhamba Vishwa Bharati, Varanasi, verse 5, pg no. 238