Ringing in the New Year Without Ringing in Your Ear by Jacquelyn Hines and Melissa Barton
It is estimated that up to one in five people have experienced ringing in the ears. This is a condition known as tinnitus, a noise disturbance heard in the ears of the person affected. It has been described as different sounds, tones and pulsations and heard as ringing, hissing, buzzing and static. Tinnitus can be acute or chronic and can occur constantly or intermittently.
Although it is often given as a diagnosis, tinnitus is actually a symptom, not a true medical condition. An exact cause for tinnitus remains unknown. Medically, it is postulated that tinnitus may be due to inner ear damage, age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, bony changes, ear wax build-up, increased fluid in the ears, Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorder, head/neck injuries and acoustic neuroma. Further, it has been proposed that blood vessel disorders, such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, may also cause tinnitus. Medication may also cause or increase its symptoms.
When seeking out assistance with tinnitus, patients may be referred to an audiologist or may undergo imaging to examine the blood vessels or to look for a tumor. It is helpful to rule out if there is a medical cause for tinnitus. Medications may be altered to try to change the symptoms. Some practitioners recognize that tinnitus can be impacted by the musculoskeletal system (i.e. muscle tension, teeth grinding and clenching of the jaw).
What the medical field typically fails to recognize is that tinnitus often appears after an intense or prolonged period of increased stress, exertion, excitement, challenges or changes. It is during these times that the nervous system becomes overloaded and the body begins to operate in a state of “fight or flight”. When this occurs, the adrenal glands are working overtime, producing an increase in hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which creates changes throughout the body to improve the body’s “survival” ability. The nervous system becomes over-sensitive when in this state, which can impact hearing. When in “fight or flight”, the ears may begin to pick up nervous system impulses along the auditory nerve in addition to hearing external noises.
Some signs that the body may be experiencing adrenal overload can include:
· Poor sleep patterns – waking groggy or frequently throughout the night
· Driven, ambitious, busy
· Easily irritated, reactive, oversensitive
· Struggles with anxiety
· Difficulties with gastrointestinal system
· Dependent on stimulants – coffee, chocolate, alcohol
· Poor circulation to extremities
· Muscle tension and spasms in neck
· Tingling into upper extremities
· Low energy, but presents self with high energy
When in adrenal overload, some people may be aware of their state, but often most people are only in tune with their symptomology. In looking at and treating the whole body, individuals can turn off the alarm system that is ringing constantly in their ears or translating throughout the body.
Craniosacral therapy can help with improving adrenal symptoms, assisting the body to transition out of a state of “fight or flight” to allow the nervous system to recover and function in a state of homeostasis to eliminate tinnitus. Craniosacral therapy is a holistic and gentle hands-on treatment technique that works on the nervous system and on improving the body, mind and spirit.
Craniosacral therapists work with patients to facilitate release of tension and strain patterns in the body to improve structure and bony alignment, and to assist in releasing emotional trauma stored in the body to allow for healing and improved wellness.
Resolving tinnitus can be a slow, gradual process as the body is working on releasing chronic patterns. These patterns can be physical and structurally based, such as releasing muscle tension and spasms, improving bony alignment, decreasing compression of cranial and spinal nerves, and improving postural alignment. They can also be emotionally based, such as releasing trauma and stress, to assist the central nervous system in transitioning out of a high alerted state.
In addition to craniosacral therapy, patients struggling with tinnitus should consider also reducing stimulants (coffee, chocolate, alcohol), increasing mindfulness (meditation, yoga, tai chi) and improving their mental outlook (reframing feelings regarding tinnitus, having patience with symptom resolution).
Transformation will occur when an individual can reflect and give attention to how the body feels. With craniosacral therapy, patients can quiet their minds and listen to the voice within that helps guide healing. It allows the body to calm, to slow down on a physiological level with decreasing adrenal overdrive and can improve sleep, digestion, musculoskeletal alignment and neurological symptoms which can assist with the resolution of tinnitus.
Dr. Jacquelyn Hines,PT, DPT, MPT, C/NDT, CST,and Melissa Barton, MS, OTR/L,practice craniosacral therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy at Connectivity Therapy and Holistic Health, in Collingswood. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 732-224-1280 or visit ConnectivityTherapy.com.