Tinnitus is an internal, occasional or continuous ringing, in one or both ears, with different pitches. But the noise is unique for each of us, so for yours might be an engine sound, whirring, or high-pitched whine. Whatever you hear, is It any wonder that it can make life feel unbearable. Especially as guess what? It’s often most noticeable when the shattered peri or menopausal woman tries to get some sleep. “You Can Ring My Bell” Nope, Anita Ward wasn’t singing about tinnitus, but she could have been!
Who’d have thought that falling oestrogen levels could cause Tinnitus? When it happened to us, it didn’t occur to either of us that it could be linked to our hormones. As we found out GPs don’t always make the connection either. Oestrogen it seems underpins signalling from the ears to the brain, and falling levels may be responsible for a mix-up in sounds being communicated between the two, leading to unwanted, inner ear noise.
And the good news is…. For some women it may be a temporary problem caused by fluctuating hormones. According to Take On Tinnitus an online resource linked to the British Tinnitus Association, studies have indicated that, over time, noises can disappear completely or at least reduce to a tolerable level in most cases.
The best help for menopause tinnitus
Tinnitus may be helped by a triple-pronged approach of modifying your diet and lifestyle, and exercising more so that you are in better shape to cope with this frustrating menopausal side effect. Unfortunately, there are currently no medical procedures or products that can help with the tinnitus itself. It’s a question of learning to live with your particular noise, although some women take medication to deal with the anxiety and sleep deprivation that can go hand in hand with tinnitus. And counselling by an NHS audiologist may also help you find coping strategies.
What to avoid to help with tinnitus
What can smoking do for your hearing? The short answer: make it worse! The British Tinnitus Association says that research shows that there is a small increased risk of smokers developing tinnitus. It seems that nicotine and carbon monoxide affect the functioning of the delicate ear system.
Lifestyle & wellbeing to help with tinnitus
Keeping your body as healthy as possible may lessen the effect of tinnitus. The two walnut-sized, adrenal glands, pump out stress hormones which can exacerbate it. Exercise helps flushes out excess stress hormones, boosts feel-good endorphins and may distract you from fretting about your tinnitus. Adding your own noise may drown out the drone
White noise apps can be downloaded to help you to tune out your tinnitus noise. Take your pick from thunderstorm to air conditioning, there’s a noise to suit everyone.
Stress, the chicken and the egg
Just like the age-old dilemma, which comes first: tinnitus or stress? Whether you’re stressed because you’ve developed tinnitus, or your stress levels have resulted in tinnitus, calming techniques can be useful. Yoga, mindfulness, controlled breathing techniques and exercise may help you to feel calmer (and distract from the bloody noise!).
It’s so unfair that tinnitus can keep you awake with its ghastly non-stop personalised sound system. Unfortunately sleep deprivation and exhaustion can make the impact of your tinnitus feel much worse. Experiment to find what works for you. Relaxation techniques, white noise apps or night-time formulas of herbal supplements containing valerian may help get you off to the land of nod.
Supplements worth trying for tinnitus
Gingko Biloba helps with circulation, particularly cerebral circulation, so may help if your tinnitus is due to circulatory problems
B12 Vitamins – B12 deficiency has been linked to Tinnitus
Zinc – studies indicate that this can help with age-related tinnitus (not specifically hormone induced tinnitus).
Alternative help for tinnitus
Acupuncture & Chinese medicine
There are studies to show it may work and others say it makes no difference. A therapist will look to see if it’s intermittent (associated with ‘deficiency’) or a sudden onset (an obstruction) and will treat accordingly.
Complementary or alternative treatments have been used to help with tinnitus over the years. Essential oils represent the essence of the plant they come from and the use of them for healing goes back thousands of years when it was discovered that certain aromas had healing properties when inhaled. Aromatherapy helps with relaxation and the use of essential oils may lessen the intensity of tinnitus. Rub 2 to 3 drops of the essential oil onto the ear lobe, on the bone behind the ear and on the neck. Gently massage these oils and inhale deeply as you go. Don’t put any essential oils in your ear. Try the following oils:
Helichrysum Oil may help to reduce inflammation and add a sense of well-being.
Lavender Oil has relaxing and sleep inducing qualities which may help to eliminate the stress and tension of dealing with tinnitus.
Cypress Oil stimulates blood circulation and calms the nervous system
When to see your doctor about tinnitus
Although the onset of tinnitus in women between 40-60 is associated with hormonal imbalance there may be other causes including reactions to medications, sweetener, heart disease or hypothyroidism. Talk to your doctor to rule out a serious, underlying cause.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Or CBT for short, aims to change the way you feel about your tinnitus, so you cope better with it. The less you know about the condition the more anxious and depressed you may feel - inadvertently making it worse. Available on the NHS, CBT retrains the way you think about your tinnitus so it becomes less of a focus.
And then there’s always HRT….
But be warned: tinnitus may be one of the side effects of correcting fluctuating hormone levels with HRT. A 2014 review posted on eHealthMe looked at just under 70,000 women who took an oestrogen-only hormone replacement prescription product - 0.5% reported tinnitus as a side effect. More recent 2017 research published in the North American Menopause Society journal, claims HRT is associated with a higher risk of hearing loss. Researchers reviewed 80,972 women, the observational study found that the use of oral HRT for women who go through menopause at a later age had greater hearing loss.
The usual caveat here, that HRT is something to be discussed with your doctor. There are pros and cons to taking HRT. We don’t take a view. It’s for you to decide whether it’s right for you, or not.