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About Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a sound heard in one or both ears, when there is no external noise. The sound is from the ear and can be described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or whistling. Tinnitus can be a temporary or permanent problem. The noise can affect concentration and cause insomnia. When it is very bad, it can lead to anxiety and even depression. It is more common in people over the age of 60.


Possible Symptoms

Persistent noise in ear such as ringing or other high pitched noises


Western Medicine View

To prevent Tinnitus, try to avoid loud noises and do not let earwax to build up. Ruling out other serious problems can often help stop the Tinnitus. A background radio or masking device can help to distract the person from Tinnitus. If a person is also suffering from anxiety and depression, counselling and antidepressant therapy may be used.


Chinese Medicine View

There are two types of Tinnitus: Excess and Deficiency. The Excess type is caused by the rising of Liver and gall-bladder fire. This type of tinnitus with a sudden onset and loud sound is clearly related to emotional strain, headache, irritability, a bitter taste, thirst, red face, dizziness and constipation. The tongue is red with redder sides and yellow coating, the pulse is wiry and rapid. The Deficiency type is caused by Kidney-Essence deficiency. This type of tinnitus is with gradual onset and low sound sometimes like rushing water. It comes in bouts and creates slight dizziness, a feeling of emptiness of the head, poor memory, blurred vision, sore back and knees, diminished sexual desire or performance. The tongue is pale or red without coating depending on whether there is a deficiency of Kidney-Yang (warm energy) or Kidney-Yin (cooling energy). A deep and weak pulse is caused by Kidney-Yang deficiency and floating-empty pulse indicates Kidney-Yin deficiency.


According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to treat different types of tinnitus. Acupuncture points in the Hand and Foot are targeted. Moxibustion (which involves igniting a cone or cylinder of moxa close to the skin) is also used according to CM theory.



Lifestyle Advice

Emotional problems such as anger, or hatred can cause Liver-Qi stagnation and in the long run, Liver-Fire which may rise upwards to disturb the ears. This may cause tinnitus with a sudden onset and a loud noise. Emotions such as sadness and grief which weaken lungs and heart may also lead to tinnitus. This occurs when a deficiency in the essential energy (Qi) of Heart and Lung causes a failure in these energies to rise to the head to brighten the ear orifices.

Excessive sexual activity and overwork can weaken the kidneys so that they cannot nourish the ear and tinnitus may result. This type of tinnitus is of gradual onset and the noise is of low pitch. This is the most common cause of tinnitus.

Eating too many dairy products and greasy foods, together with irregular eating habits, may lead to the formation of Phlegm which may rise to the head. Here it prevents the rising of clear Qi to the head to brighten its orifices (which include the ears), and the descending of turbid Qi from the head, resulting in tinnitus and dizziness.

Long-term exposure to very loud sounds such as in discotheques where loud music is played may also cause tinnitus.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.


Last Updated: December 13, 2012


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