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Men's Health

The Ringing and Buzzing of Tinnitus

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Certain lifestyle changes are very important for those that have tinnitus.

  • Caffeine is one of the most common tinnitus aggravators and should be very limited. Coffee, teas, caffeinated colas, and chocolate all contain significant amounts of caffeine capable of constricting blood flow to the ear.
  • Nicotine also constricts blood flow and can aggravate tinnitus, so efforts should be made to stop all tobacco use.
  • Aspirin, especially higher doses, can cause or make tinnitus worse. Switch to acetaminophen products.
  • A low-salt diet is also recommended by many medical providers, so hide that saltshaker and watch the sodium content of foods you eat.

Take an active role in your care, keeping up with the latest research. You may even have to educate your doctor on various treatments. Quieting the ringing will require a lifelong commitment to lifestyle changes, cooperative medical care, and most importantly, a positive and optimistic attitude.

Tinnitus prevention can include obvious things such as limiting exposure to loud noises, but vitamins and exercise may help, too. Exercising regularly may help by improving blood flow to ear structures, while B-12 can help the body make the material that protects the inner ear's nerves. Good B-12 sources include dairy products, meat, and eggs.

Almost everyone experiences an occasional ringing (or roaring, hissing, buzzing, or tinkling) in their ears; most tinnitus that comes and goes requires no medical treatment. But if your tinnitus is accompanied by other symptoms, becomes persistent, or starts to localize to one ear, visit a health professional.

Rod Moser, PA-C, PhD, is a primary care physician assistant with over 30 years of clinical experience in adult and pediatric health. He is the author of Ears: An Owner's Manual and Primary Care for Physician Assistants.

Originally published June 17, 2002.

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