Tinnitus and hyperacusis sufferers continue to look at their diet as a way of coping with the ringing in their ears, pain, anxiety and sleepless nights. Feeling unheard and swept under the rug by doctors prescribing anti-depressant and sleep-aid medication, those with tinnitus, hyperacusis or both, feel doctors claiming to be specialists in this area of disease and illnesses are “clueless” to help.
This imbalance of knowledge, lack of research and method of treatments has those suffering from tinnitus, hyperacusis or both reaching for straws that could be causing them harm by removing something from their diet the human body needs.
We have reached out to dietitian Joanne Larsen and asked her to respond to questions and comments by tinnitus and hyperacusis patients. Joanne is a licensed, registered dietitian with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and master’s degree in nutrition. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information about Joanne Larsen, you can go to her website “Ask the Dietitian” at www.dietitian.com. Joanne was kind enough to provide us with links:
Resource: National Library of Medicine at http://www.nlm.nih.gov
Interview with Joanne Larsen, dietitian
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: I researched the Library of Medicine in the last 5 years for research about hyperacusis or tinnitus and diet or food. Unfortunately, there is little to link what people eat to the cause of these two diseases unless there is another underlying disease like heart or diabetes.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Hyperacusis though not a new condition, is rarely known. There is no proven cure and therapy for such a condition seems to be in the test phase as well. Frustration builds amongst sufferers as one form of therapy such as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, better known, as TRT seems to help some while causing others more pain.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: For tinnitus: People with diabetes should control their blood sugar to within recommended ranges of hearing loss in adulthood. This may suggest that pregnant women should not take excess omega 3 supplements or eat fatty fish high in omega 3 more than 6 ounces per week. Fish high in omega 3 are salmon, albacore tuna (not recommended for pregnant women due to mercury), mackerel, herring and sardines. In addition, iron deficiency during pregnancy may contribute to hearing loss in animal studies.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: The biggest issues for those who suffer from tinnitus, hyperacusis or both are the pain and anxiety of which they go though. Most patients say the same thing their doctor tells them to stay away from caffeine, sugar even salt.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Research on caffeine’s effect on tinnitus shows no effect. Reducing sugar for people with diabetes is addressed above. There is no research to suggest reducing salt intake improves tinnitus.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Is that just a basic format, doctor seem to say that to everyone, heart patients, diabetics, tinnitus sufferers now this. Stay away from caffeine, sugar even salt.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Doctors should make diet recommendations specific to a patient’s diagnosis and should refer patients to a registered dietitian for nutrition therapy. People with heart disease should be at a healthy weight, exercise, limit animal, saturated and trans fats in processed foods. People with diabetes also should be at a healthy weight, exercise, limit animal, saturated and trans fats in processed foods and should count carbohydrate grams in food to evenly distribute their carbohydrate intake at meals and snacks. Generally, 30-45 grams of carbohydrate per meal and 15-30 grams of carbohydrate per snack is advised. That way a person with diabetes will not consume a large carbohydrate load, which would increase their blood sugar above normal levels. As people age (people over 70 years), tolerance to carbohydrate loads decrease. Seniors tend to eat carbohydrates because they are inexpensive, easy to chew and digest compared to meat. Salt should be limited in people with high blood pressure or kidney disease not tinnitus. There is no recommended nutrition therapy (diet) to prevent or treat tinnitus.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Doctors recommend rest, staying away from the sounds that affect you and drink lots of fluids.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Except in people with congestive heart failure or kidney disease, people should drink enough water so that their urine is light yellow to clear during waking hours.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Some patients have to work in environments that cause them pain; OSHA Guidelines do nothing for people with hyperacusis. How important is diet to remaining as healthy as possible? These people have mood swings because of their discomfort plus the anxiety of family life, work, no sleep and seclusion. Most of these people lose friends, stop going out, live solitude lives because they simply cannot handle the sound of a door shutting, cutlery or plates, a phone ringing, groups of people talking.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: What you eat is very important to health as many diseases (heart, diabetes, stroke, and cancer) are caused by what you eat or what you don’t eat. Maintaining a healthy weight for your height and exercise 150 minutes a week is also important. If you don’t know what you should weigh or how much you should eat, try my Healthy Body Calculator at http://www.dietitian.com/calcbody.php.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Some patients have noticed a spike in their tinnitus after eating certain foods and wonder why this happens. Might you be able to answer this?
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Based on current research, there is no food that increases or decreases tinnitus except in people with heart disease with elevated blood fats (cholesterol and lipoproteins LDL, VLDL) and people with poorly controlled diabetes.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Is there an idea about pulsatile tinnitus and food/drinks? (Pulsatile tinnitus differs from regular tinnitus.)
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: True published research does not differentiate between tinnitus and pulsatile tinnitus so the recommendations remain the same. There is no proven nutrition therapy for tinnitus of any type.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Bioresonance, some say this method is not possible. Bioresonance therapy or (MORA therapy) is a pseudoscientific medical concept in which it is proposed that electromagnetic waves can be used to diagnose and treat human illness. Some practitioners claim they can treat diseases using this therapy without drugs, by stimulating a change of “bioresonance” in the cells, and reversing the change caused by the disease. I ask you this because there are patients who feel strongly about medications, they feel doctors are too quick to toss an antidepressant at them or sleep aid, which does not fix the problem it sweeps it under the rug. Others are against medication because of a history of allergic reactions. My concern is that sufferers from tinnitus and hyperacusis feel doctors just do not know enough about these conditions and research is next to none. They start looking for ways to treat themselves, try anything!
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: While I empathize with people who have chronic diseases that are looking for answers, my nutritional recommendations are based on published research and evidence analysis for nutrition therapy. Doctors are affected by patient reviews as much as restaurants. If you don’t like your doctor, change doctors. Electromagnetic wave therapy is not recommended as a nutrition therapy for any disease.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Those with hyperacusis, tinnitus or both have been looking at their diet. One patient wrote: “From what I understand, the only things you can do with diet are reduce systemic inflammation, take antioxidant and nutrient-rich super foods to essentially reduce the body’s discomfort and get optimal nutrition. Discomfort, pain, anxiety can all worsen tinnitus.” Would you like to reply to that?
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Inflammation is the start of many diseases in the body including cholesterol plaques in arteries, diabetes and some cancers. Antioxidants can help immune response, but are not the cure for inflammation. Eating nutrient rich super foods is good, but people should not eliminate foods as that are nutritious. I would recommend reducing or eliminating added sugars and added salts, limit animal, saturated (like coconut or palm oils) and trans fats from processed foods. People should cook at home from basic foods so they can limit added sugars, salt and the type of fat as well as how much fat is in the food they eat.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Why does magnesium affect damaged ears? In addition, what is the impact of magnesium on the digestive tract?
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Based on current research, no. Magnesium is a mineral required by the human body and is important for bone health. Foods high in fiber generally have magnesium like whole grains, tree nuts, seeds, cooked dried beans and vegetables.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: I have not eaten wheat, milk products, or sugar for two weeks. My tinnitus is way down and my left ear is in less pain. I have not been around any noise to test it. I just like the way it feels. My daughter said my personality is so much brighter. Do you believe that by removing certain things from ones diet it is possible to lessen the pain? Should patients of hyperacusis, tinnitus or both be asking for some form of nutritional therapy?
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Wheat and milk do not affect tinnitus based on current research. Eating a combination of foods like grains, dairy, meat, fruit, vegetables and fat during a day makes it hard to identify which food makes you feel better or worse. You may find it helpful to see a dietitian who specializes in food allergies and a doctor who could order a blood allergy test to determine any food allergens. Individual’s response to any food cannot be applied to populations and this practice is referred to as testimonials (it worked for me so you should try it). People should not eliminate whole food groups like grains or dairy as they provide nutrients that are required by the human body. Would you really trade constipation for wheat or weak bones for dairy?
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: What about the removal of wheat, some say it has improved their irritable bowel syndrome (ibs) however, they did not notice an improvement in tinnitus or hyperacusis.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian:To eliminate wheat without being tested for either celiac disease or wheat allergy reduces the nutrients available to nourish your body and makes it impossible for your doctor to determine if you have a wheat allergy or celiac disease. (Answer immediately above also applies here.)
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: This may sound strange but I have to ask about sunflower seeds. I eat them all the time because they are a favorite snack. Some hyperacusis patients swear by them.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Sunflower seeds have heart healthy oil and a good source of fiber, vitamin E, phosphorus, manganese, selenium and copper, but remember to eat sunflower seeds in moderation (2 tablespoons hulled seeds per day).
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: Some patients experience severe vertigo depending on the pain level even vomiting. Can a nutritional diet put in place lessen this imbalance of highs and lows, discomfort to extreme pain? It can certainly take a toll on one’s body.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Vertigo (room is spinning which causes dizziness) may be caused by high blood pressure, an infection affecting the bones in your inner ear and should be diagnosed then treated by a physician. Until a diagnosis is made by a doctor, you are just shooting in the dark with trying different diets and may be letting an infection run rampant permanently increasing your hearing loss.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: With all the anxiety and sleepless nights, is there a list of foods or drink that could be helpful in relieving their anxiety and give them a good night sleep?
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: Meat keeps you awake and carbohydrates (dairy, fruit, whole grains) put you to sleep. Generally, it is good not to eat within two hours of sleep especially for people who experience acid reflux or achalasia. Getting exercise though not a couple hours before bedtime can help a person feel they have done enough physical activity to fall asleep quickly.
Wendy Spickerman, examiner: No one has ever asked a Dietitian to step in and answer questions before and I think with so many patients trying so many different things diet wise, someone with your experience should ask is this necessary to help these people live a happier and healthier life.
Joanne was kind enough to provide a link in case anyone has further questions. If you decide to get in touch please be sure to thank her for her time that she gave to us here at examiner for answering your questions. We always would like to thank those of you who submitted questions. We hope you found this article to be informative and useful in your search for a happy, healthier and quieter lifestyle.
Joanne Larsen, dietitian: You can refer people to “Ask the Dietitian” at www.dietitian.com as I have answered thousands of questions and they may find their answer there, but not specifically about tinnitus.
This article was intended to create a way to arm patients with informative information of which they may go back to their doctors, open the lines of communication, and move forward with balancing the scales of knowledge, research and method of treatments