Who has Tinnitus ?

May 15, 2014 at 01:48 PM · I have just been diagnosed with Tinnitus and noise induced hearing loss. I am quite shocked because I did not think I was ever exposed to loud noise. I have had the Tinnitus for about three months but testing today has revealed that I also have hearing loss ; it is the type that is only caused by exposure to loud noise.

The loudest thing I am exposed to is my violin practise. Surely a violin is not loud enough to cause this ? The hearing loss is equal in both ears so I do not think that this can be violin related.

The ear specialist tried to lay the blame on the vacuum cleaners I use at work (hotel) but they are no louder than a domestic vacuum cleaner and I only use them for about one hour per night. The day workers use them for about six hours per shift with no known hearing loss.

I am compltely at a loss to explain this. Does anybody have any suggestions ?

Replies (81)

May 15, 2014 at 02:37 PM · http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/education/information-center/decibel-exposure-time-guidelines/

Violins can easily get to 100dB. Doesn't help that it's to one side, but an easy way to tell if it's from the violin is to see if your right ear is more sensitive than your left.

May 15, 2014 at 02:51 PM · 90% of the time I play with an earplug in my left ear. When I don't I notice that my ear definitely has taken a beating due to the volume.

The people around me wish they had earplugs too when I start scratching out a tune, but that's a different story....

May 15, 2014 at 06:04 PM · I have some tinnitus, and some hearing loss in my left ear. Some may be from playing violin and some may be from having worked around Air Force jets 40 years or so ago. I sometimes use an earplug in my left ear to protect the hearing that I have left. Etymotic Research (available on Amazon) makes "high fidelity" earplugs and I just began trying out a set a couple of days ago. They appear to be worth the money.

May 15, 2014 at 08:19 PM · I have tinnitus in my right ear, not my left so I do not think it is violin related.

The Chinese have a solution to this. A concoction made of deer antlers mixed with very strong alcohol. Taken once a day, it is supposed to cure tinnitus and cease hearing loss. I am going to give it a try. I'll let you know if it works.

May 15, 2014 at 08:22 PM · BTW,

According to Chinese herbal doctors, tinnitus is caused by weak kidneys. To strengthen the kidneys, eat black foods (e.g., black beans, black fungus, black rice).

May 15, 2014 at 08:25 PM · ...licorice? ;)

May 15, 2014 at 08:39 PM · Assuming they can actually trace your "type" of loss to loud noises (color me skeptical), don't shrug off the vacuum cleaner too quickly. Cats run desperately from most vacuums, but the one we have now doesn't bother them much. It is both quieter and has a different quality of sound. One cat will even sit down and watch it, so I've concluded that the usual sound hurts their ears.

My wife also has hearing loss and the vacuum is the loudest thing she is ever exposed to. I've had tinnitus as long as I can remember but normally tune it out. Mine sounds like a woods full of cicadas. My hearing loss is not surprising, many sources including wax.

May 15, 2014 at 09:20 PM · Another ringy-dingy set of ears here. In my case, it's due to working for the Army in my youth (explosives), hunting (firearms) and hobbies (power tools).

Even with all the other stuff, my left ear is noticeably affected if I neglect the earplug. For music, I use a musician's earplug on the left only.

It also helps intonation, since I don't get volume saturation. During this week's rehearsal, I took the earplug out while doing a vocal, then forgot it for the next two pieces. Ow!

May 15, 2014 at 09:58 PM · Smiley, it's interesting about the Chinese medicine perspective, since so many people with tinnitus have to eradicate salt from their diet. It suggests a kidney link.

May 16, 2014 at 03:03 AM · I have tinnitus mostly in my left ear, probably some hearing loss to go with that. I have heard that it is linked somehow to the overprescription of antibiotics for ear infections, of which I had quite a few as a child.

My secret non-traditional-medicine remedy is to eat a lot of fried food such as chicken wings, snack chips, fried onion rings, and the like, or grilled meats such as country-style pork ribs or thick juicy hamburgers and rare steaks, usually with some french fries or Tater Tots, and preferably to wash those down with a range of alcoholic beverages such as stouts, porters, red wine, or bourbon. My tinnitus is not getting worse as I age so these treatments must be working, I plan to continue them indefinitely.

May 16, 2014 at 03:33 AM · I have very little salt in my diet ie. no processed foods.

My tinnitus is like cicadas.

I used to have a lot do do with firearms when I was younger but I always wore hearing protection.

I think I will have to wear some sort of plugs when at work and practising the violin. I do not like playing with a mute as it changes the whole tone of the violin. Although I do sound better with a mute !

May 16, 2014 at 09:29 AM · Paul,

I'm glad that treatment is working for you... interesting strategy, hearing loss is not a problem if you die from obesity related illness first :-)

May 16, 2014 at 09:57 AM · A Henry vacuum cleaner produces 70 Decibels of sound whereas a violin produces 82-92 Decibels. The danger zone for hearing loss is 90-95 decibels. The violin seems the most likely cause of my hearing loss but the loss is equal in both ears. I would have thought if the cause was the violin then the hearing loss would be greater in the left ear.

Does anybody know the decibel reduction for a violin using a concert mute ?

May 16, 2014 at 11:38 PM · "The Chinese have a solution to this. A concoction made of deer antlers mixed with very strong alcohol. Taken once a day, it is supposed to cure tinnitus and cease hearing loss..."

Thanks to many Chinese "cures," much of the world's wildlife is being wiped out.

If you have a smartphone, you can download a fairly accurate decibel meter, which you can have someone hold near your ear while you're playing the violin. The sound pressure levels get quite high, and it's a wonder more violinists are more deaf. The most highly-rated app is called "SPLnFFT" and is available on the Apple app store. I wouldn't bother with anything else, as some are pretty inaccurate.

May 17, 2014 at 12:35 AM · Scott, many thanks for the heads-up on SPLnFFT. I'm sure it's going to be one of the most useful apps on my iPad.

May 17, 2014 at 12:21 PM · @Scott,

Next time I run into Bambi I'll apologize on behalf of the Chinese people.

May 17, 2014 at 12:32 PM · Brian,

I am currently reading a book give to my by my psychology teacher called Musicophelia, and it deals with hearing music or high tones or sounds in general when there is no external stimuli. It talks about musical hallucinations, music imagery tinnitus, etc. You can try to get a prescription to help. Some of them make you drowsy. What's interesting is that if you hearing loss worsens, you could possibly begin to have music hallucinations as well. If you starting music and there is none, don't worry, you aren't going crazy. But going to a doctor and receiving a prescription may really help.

Wish you well!


May 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM · No, I only take drugs/pharmaceuticals for serious things. I would not even contemplate taking anything for this problem. Most pills and tablets make me nauseous.

May 17, 2014 at 01:30 PM · Smiley, you don't even have the excuse of wanting to produce a Chinese cure for that - Bambi's mother didn't HAVE antlers. Furthermore, if you wait for Bambi's antlers to fall off, as they do annually, you can obtain them without shooting him.

Come on, be honest, you just like venison - so do I.

May 17, 2014 at 02:49 PM · @Brian,

Losing your hearing is kind of serious don't you think?

May 17, 2014 at 02:53 PM · BTW,

Here's a quick way to check your hearing. Rub your thumb and index finger together several inches away from your ear. You should be able to hear the rubbing from 5-6 inches away.

May 17, 2014 at 03:57 PM · The use of deer antler might not be causing the extermination of endangered wildlife species, but the use of rhinoceros horn definitely is. Any perpetuation of such "traditional medicine" is not mere foolishness -- it is part of the problem.

"In Hunan Province, China, a silk scroll was recovered from these ancient times, listing 52 different diseases for which deer antler velvet was used as a medicine." Not surprisingly, chief among the "uses" of deer antler velvet is for male sexual dysfunction, but the list also includes "diabetes, asthma, anaemia, endocrine problems, arteriosclerosis ... sterility, prostation, tinnitus, dizziness and blood discharge." Wow that is some amazing stuff, but it probably only works (that is, the placebo effect probably only kicks in) if you paid a lot of money for it. Sort of like fancy violin rosin.

Regarding "musical hallucinations" there is nothing musical about the sound that occurs in my left ear all the time. Fortunately it is not bad enough that I am unable to ignore it when it counts, such as when I need to sleep.

May 17, 2014 at 05:20 PM · The prescription offered by the doctors only helps with the tinnitus. There is no pharmaceutical cure for hearing loss.

Yes, I can still hear my thumb and fingers rubbing together.

May 17, 2014 at 06:29 PM · Yes, tinnitis can potentially be treated with medication but usually the case is extreme. There's a couple medications which can potentially reduce the symptoms but has some nasty side effects (potentially). With a grain of salt, I wouldn't dismiss the ear specialists claims about the vacuum noise, especially if they also know you're also a musician. You can also make sure there's no underlying vascular conditions going on, get your ears drained out of wax buildup and, if you're on any medications look into maybe that affecting things.

Also, I've found people generally ignore any slight hearing loss or tinnitus symptoms until it gets more extreme so your co-workers who're using the vacuum for 6+ hours a day may simply be shrugging it off or just simply not aware of it as anything out of the ordinary.

I've been deaf in one ear for 30 years, and partially in the other and have been a professional violinist for 15 of those. There's simply so many factors involved in tinnitus and hearing loss that your best bet is to try various things to see what works best for yourself. It could be a diet change, age related, hereditary, environment, etc. Good luck and if all else fails, teach yourself to rely entirely upon vibrations. ;)

May 17, 2014 at 06:30 PM · I have had Tinnitus since childhood. No biggie! You get used to it to an extent you ignore it most of the time. I don't remember since when I've had it, but was conscious about it as a child when a wave knocked me over on the beach and my ears apparently got clogged with (perhaps) sand and salty water. It took perhaps a week for me to listen normally again, but I may have had "contracted" Tinnitus then. IMHO, something to take care about only when it inhibits personal life enjoyment. If you have it and live happily anyway, I wouldn't seek remedies for a problem that isn't problematic enough (my personal take, with which you are totally in your right to disagree with.)

Ironically, my left ear is actually in better shape than my right, despite my violin playing. Seemingly my accident was more tragic to my ears than my violin playing has ever been, or will ever be (I never use ear protection when I play.)

May 17, 2014 at 07:35 PM · I have some tinnitus, although my hearing seems to still be there (at least that's what the test said). It's mostly filtered out unless I look for it. If I go anywhere with amplified music, I bring heavy duty earplugs. I should be more careful to do more when I am practicing, but I can't always practice with an earplug.

Good sleep, exercise, keeping booze and caffeine to a minimum. I take some antioxidants, but that I take on faith. What's really key is understanding that you can get used to it, and your brain will get better at filtering it out. It's really important to face it and not let it pull you into a depression.

May 17, 2014 at 07:38 PM · Brian has just asked an interesting question concerning the dB reduction on a violin fitted with a concert mute. I've just carried out dB measurements on my iPad using the SPLnFFT app that Scott has kindly brought to our attention.

I used two violins for the measurements: a modern Jay Haide (dated 2002), and a late 18th c anonymous German. The Haide is fitted with a Baroque tailpiece, covered gut G, plain gut D and A, and a steel E with an on-string Suzuki tuner. The German violin has a standard tailpiece covered gut G and D (Eudoxas) and a steel A and E. Its tailpiece is fitted with Hill-style tuners for the A and E. I used the same bow for each violin, a 100-year old perambuco bow. The mute used is a standard Tourte black rubber mute.

In each test I played ff+ for a minute or so as if I were playing heavy symphonic music in orchestra, using fast whole bows and exploring a 3-1/2 octave range of scales and arpeggios including double stops, chords, and open strings. After each test I reset the software so that data could not be carried over from one test to the next.

The iPad was located upright about 3 feet from the violin under test.

The figure I'm giving for each test is the Leq, which is a running statistical average calculated by the software of the dB range during the test.

Jay Haide (without mute) 86.4

Jay Haide (with mute) 83.3

18c German (without mute) 89.2

18c German (with mute) 87.1

The dB reduction for the Jay Haide was 3.1dB, and for the old German violin it was smaller at 2.1dB.

It must be remembered that the point of the orchestral mute is not necessarily to reduce the volume of the sound but to change its quality, mainly by reducing the intensity of the higher harmonics.

How reproducible are these results? If I were to repeat the tests I'd most probably get slightly different figures, as I would if I used different strings or a different bow (or did the test on other violins), but overall I'd still expect to see a similar dB reduction when using a mute.

One interesting point, in every test I would see an occasional dB spike in the high 90s, both with mute and without it, but these were few and transient enough not to have much effect on the Leq statistical average.

May 17, 2014 at 09:24 PM · Brian Kelly - I'm surprised that your diagnosis of hearing loss was attributed to exposure to loud noise. What tests did you have? I'm just curious, because a medical examiner can't see anything past the eardrum membrane using a normal scope.

What criteria were used to narrow it down to loud noise exposure, as opposed to accelerated natural hearing loss through ageing (or congenital reasons)?

People with normal hearing can get tinnitus, and so can people with degrees of hearing loss. There is a direct and proportional relationship to hearing loss and the emergence and persistence of tinnitus.

I have severe hearing loss in both ears, and very intrusive tinnitus too. I wear hearing aids.

I doubt very much that violin playing contributes to anything more than mild hearing loss. It hasn't affected people like Itzak Perlman, has it? Although, to be fair, it would be in his interest to keep quiet about it (unless of course, it was severe).

May 17, 2014 at 11:07 PM · In general, I have learned to live with the tinnitus and it mostly does not affect my life, but it sure would be nice if I can make it go away. I am going to try the deer antlers. I have friends in China that have access to the best antlers. Something about the deer in their province makes the antlers more potent. I'll let you know if it helps. If nothing else, maybe it will make the wife happier ;-)

May 17, 2014 at 11:10 PM · BTW, it is my understanding is that tinnitus is a precursor to hearing loss. The antlers don't reverse the process, it only slows it down.

May 17, 2014 at 11:14 PM ·

He did state an ear specialist, which I'd assume he means an audiologist. If he meant an ENT, they too can still diagnose the Tinnitus but not the hearing loss necessarily or the causes.

Remember, it affects something like 1 in 4 or 5 people. So because Mr. Perlman hasn't ever mentioned Tinnitus or seems to be affected, doesn't really mean it couldn't occur in another person via the same route.

May 18, 2014 at 03:51 AM · I was examined by an experienced ENT specialist who only deals with ears and hearing problems. He did a number of tests and his experience tells him that this is the sort of hearing loss that is always caused by noise exposure. That is what he said and at this stage I am not in a position to argue with him although I do understand some people's scepticism.

The tinnitus does not bother me that much but it is a sign that all is not well. About 4 months ago, we did think it might be caused by a fungal infection of the ear drum but everything is perfectly clean and healthy inside the ear now so that is not the cause.

I work the night shift and sleeping through the day can be a problem even with closed windows, air conditioning and ear plugs. Lack of sleep does not help with any health problem. I hope to be going to China again soon so it will be interesting to see if a holiday helps. It is wonderful to get back into the habit of sleeping at night.

I might ask my wife to source some deer antler before I arrive. How do you keep them on your head ?

May 18, 2014 at 09:19 AM · There is a very good book by two acknowledged authorities on tinnitus (Pawel Jasterboff and Jonathan Hazel) called 'Tinnitus Retraining Therapy', ISBN 978-0-521-08837-4 which gives a very good account of tinnitus, its mechanisms, and treatment.

Whilst there is no known cure for the root cause of tinnitus (or hearing loss for that matter), there has been much progress in the reduction of the 'perception' of tinnitus.

The authors made an interesting discovery, in that there was often no difference in the type and volume of the tinnitus from patient to patient, however there was a big difference in the level of the conditioned response (what makes it intrusive, stressful etc).

Their method of therapy was aimed solely at habituation, the end result being that tinnitus signal was able to be ignored, which just as effective as a 'cure' at root level.

As to the source of the tinnitus, regardless of the type of sound, they have found that it can be generated by movements of the inner and outer hair cells within the cochlea, but also by any electrical signals in any of the auditory pathways.

May 18, 2014 at 10:01 AM · Here's my ear diet plan.

-Less carbs and sugar

-Avocado dip with raw sweet potato sticks- I have this 2-3 time a week. This meal/snack is high in just about everything, but it is extremely high in vitamin A with the healthy fat for the metabolism of the vitamin.

raw nuts and seeds mix:

Hazel nuts- high in vitamin E

Walnuts - high in omega-3

Pecans - high in manganese

Almonds - blood sugar stabilizer and high in vitamin E , B's and manganese

pumpkin seeds - high in Zinc

sunflower seeds - high in B6

dried cranberries - digestion health

I buy my nuts and seeds at Costco or the Bulk Barn, cheaper pricing. I keep a jar of the mix in the cupboard and a jar in the car. I have a handful at breakfast with my coffee and a handful around 3 o'clock.

Beets - 2-3 times a week for improve blood flow.

Exercise - improves blood flow

Find foods that cause harm to you- do a food intolerance test. An unhealthy digestive system is the worse thing for your ears, you want to make sure its at 100 percent.

For me, I had to cut back a lot with milk and wheat. I was on a high dairy, high carb and high simple carb diet, and I really felt it.

Today my health and energy is excellent. At one time I had ringing in my ears when falling asleep, but now nothing or very little.

You can cut up a rubber mute or by a Heifetz mute and place it between the A and E string to cut the highs frequencies.

May 18, 2014 at 10:46 AM · Further to my previous post I have carried out dB reduction tests on my two violins using a heavy rubber practice mute. The test conditions were as in the previous tests on a standard orchestral mute, again paying attention to playing with maximum volume in each case.

Here are the Leq average results for the practice mute, using the SPLnFFT app on my iPad:

Jay Haide (with practice mute) 75.8dB

18c German (with practice mute) 80.4dB

The dB reduction for the Jay Haide over unmuted was 10.6dB, and for the old German violin it was 8.8dB

In both cases when using the practice mute occasional isolated peaks in the region 92-94dB were observed.

The practice mute should only be used when there is absolutely no other alternative, in a hotel room, for example. The practice mute takes away most of the tonal quality of the violin and therefore makes it next to impossible to practice the necessary fine control of tone and expression.

May 18, 2014 at 11:10 AM · More on the deer antlers. They are sold in very thin slices. You are supposed to soak them in high grain alcohol for 2 weeks (use the highest grain you can find). Then each day, you take a small amount of alcohol (maybe 1-2 tablespoons), and eat one slice of antler.

PS If it eases your conscience, you can say a prayer for Bambi as you eat the antler.

May 18, 2014 at 03:50 PM · I'm on the opposite side of this Deer Antler cure. Generally when something is labeled a 'medicine' I often think it is for short term use and will cause other problems over time. If you think that poor kidney health is related to tinnitus than a kidney healthy diet may be beneficial.

Healthy Kidney Foods

May 18, 2014 at 04:12 PM · I'm always very skeptical about 'snake oil' types of cures. That said, if the deer antler solution does work, then it would have to be taken very seriously indeed (although I'm not entirely sure that Smiley is being serious) :)

The body's natural healing process makes it difficult to properly evaluate medicines, particularly those from the 'alternate' sides.

Given that tinnitus is incurable by any known medicine, (as is hearing loss), then if the deer antler solution does work, then that would be proof positive that it would have to be taken seriously. A bit like removing the ambiguity from prayer, and having your amputated limb re-grow as a direct result.

May 18, 2014 at 04:29 PM · Trevor,

Keep in mind the inverse square law: while you took a measurement from 3 feet away, the sound will be much louder under your ear, which is inches away from the violin.

May 18, 2014 at 05:05 PM · "(although I'm not entirely sure that Smiley is being serious) :) "

Yes, I am entirely serious. Problem is, I have yet to find a good source for deer antler nor the proper type of alcohol so I am having friends track both of them down for me in China.

A little more background information on this deer antler thing. A friend's father, I think he is in his mid 80's, developed tinnitus a number of years ago. He has since lost most of his hearing. But only recently, he heard about the deer antler cure and started taking it. He said it cured the tinnitus, but has not reversed his hearing loss. Problem is, he started it too late. He thinks that if he started earlier, he might still be able to hear.

Regarding "snake oil" treatments, I am also not a big believer in alternative medicines; however, I have witnessed some amazing things in recent years with acupuncture and herbal remedies helping and in some cases completely curing some close friends of mine. Though I am not a full convert, I am convinced enough to give these treatments a chance.

Disclaimer: just because it is natural, or herbal does not mean it is completely safe. Some herbal remedies can have undesirable side effects.

May 18, 2014 at 05:22 PM · @Charles,

I regularly eat 9 out of 15 items on the "healthy kidney" food list. I don't know that they have helped me, except that I am otherwise exceedingly healthy. But, I don't know that those foods are helping with the tinnitus.

I mentioned above that according to Chinese medicine, "black" foods promote kidney health. I recently started adding ground black sesame seeds to my cereal each day. It actually tastes pretty good.

Final point, from my personal observations, I find that a good night's sleep has the biggest affect on my tinnitus. That is, when I get a good 8 hours sleep, the tinnitus is noticeably better the next day. On days that I do not sleep well, the tinnitus is noticeably worse.

One final observation: the best way to get a good night's sleep... exercise. On days that I work out, I sleep like a baby. On days that I don't, it's hit or miss.

May 18, 2014 at 05:23 PM · Scott, yes I'm aware of the inverse square law. It's just that there were practical difficulties in getting an iPad up by my left ear while doing the tests! I'm quite prepared to accept that when playing un-muted what reached my left ear could very well reach consistently above 90dB, occasionally spiking into three figures.

Fortunately, sustained ff playing doesn't usually go on for too long without reverting to mf or less. There's plenty of dynamic variation in violin playing.

For a while now I've been using cotton wool in my left ear for orchestral playing when I expect heavy brass and woodwind are likely to be doing their business, and depends also on whether I'm playing in the Firsts or Seconds, but it's not necessary for my chamber orchestra, which is either strings alone or strings plus a Haydn/Mozart line-up of brass and woodwind.

What I find interesting about the tests (albeit they were too restricted to be useful for other than pointing in approximately the right direction) is the apparently significant differences between the decibel effects of mutes on two moderately good violins with over 200 years age difference between them. The old German violin is slightly larger than the Jay Haide, but is noticeably lighter. This could account in some manner for the Jay Haide being more affected decibel-wise by muting than the German violin.

I haven't got tinnitus, but I do have incipient age-related hearing loss. Nothing to worry about, but I don't always quite get what the conductor is saying in rehearsal - as I said, nothing to worry about ;)

May 18, 2014 at 09:54 PM · Smiley, I find it's about fixing the weakest link, and if the kidneys need a tune up than....

Many things can cause tinnitus, but fixing your diet may be the only one that is in our control.

A vacuum may have less volume than a violin, but it is able to cause more damage to the ears, IMO. Our human voice ranges(loudest frequencies) from 80-1100Hz, and a violin has almost a similar frequency (open E string is 660Hz and an octave up is 1320Hz). These ranges are natural and non constant, and not as damaging to the ears. A vacuum range(Loudest frequencies) is between 1000Hz to 10,0000Hz of constant volume, it is unnatural to hear this range in high volumes. Playing above E 1320Hz will also be very damaging to the ears.

If our violin is creating 90dbs of sound, the loudest volumes will be between 100- 1320Hz. The harmonics between 1,500-12,000Hz will diminish in volume -20to -40 dBs and more. The higher the hertz the lower the volume. With a vacuum creating 70dBs the loudest range is between 1000 to 10,000Hz. There is not a diminish in volume until after 10,000Hz. Therefor, the more damaging frequencies are at a high volume with the vacuum compared to the violins high frequency volumes.

I have a spectrum analyzer so I am able to do these test

Free download


May 18, 2014 at 10:18 PM · Hi Smiley, I'm sorry to say this but I'm not a fan of the deer antler thing at all. I know deer antlers will likely never be in short supply and that deer do not have to be de-horned or killed for it, but I always worry when we use animal products for supposed miracle cures. The poor old Rhino has suffered to near extinction because certain cultures can't keep their hands off its horn because of supposed miracle cure properties, which is really just keratin after all, same as our hair and fingernails. Not that deer antlers are made of the same stuff, but you know what I'm getting at. Surely in this day and age we can look elsewhere.

A friend of mine who has tinnitus and has also been plagued with meniere's disease, an ear nerve degenerative issue, has been told by her specialist to back off on using salt. Not that she was a heavy user but apparently salt encourages fluid retention in various parts of the body, and that includes the eustachian tubes and surrounding tissue. The excess fluid is said to alter the air/fluid balance and in turn affects hearing, including tinnitus. Just a suggestion.

May 19, 2014 at 02:11 AM · Hi Millie,

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but the Chinese have thousands of years of medical treatment. Some of their treatments, we do not understand, and maybe even they do not understand. But after so many years of trial and error, they have figured out some things that are not known by western medicine.

For example, my son has severe food allergies. Because of his condition, I stay on top of the latest research. Food allergies have proven very difficult to treat. But lately, doctors are doing clinical trials on new treatments, and some of the most promising are rooted in Chinese herbal medicine.

Chinese herbal remedies for treatment of asthma and food allergies

I am not claiming that deer antlers will cure my tinnitus, but if you limit yourself to western medicine, then the treatment is zilch, zero, nada. I asked my primary care physician and he told me there is absolutely nothing he can do or prescribe. Basically just live with it and eventually go deaf.

So I am willing to give the antlers a try. I think the risk is relatively low. And even if it works by placebo, it still works.

May 19, 2014 at 03:35 AM · People have been praying their diseases away for even longer, Smiley.

May 19, 2014 at 03:37 AM · Hi Smiley, um, I think you misunderstood me a little. I do not in any way advocate only for western medicine and indeed, I myself use herbal treatments where I can. Medicinal knowledge from all round the world is vital to our race, so just proclaiming one kind of treatment is the only way to go would be foolish.

I am, however, a bit of an animal rights proponent. To be clear, I don't want to get into the 'who eats meat' side of the debate, rather I'm into saving what's left of our wild animal populations. Humans have become a very successful race, and vastly populous. I believe we should nowadays be very aware of our impact on wild animal reserves, and be thinking beyond our immediate needs and willy nilly consumption of shark fin, rhino horn, whales and so on and so forth. Many species are already highly endangered and pretty soon there won't be any left. Then we really will have to look elsewhere for our miracle cures. So why not start now?

Also, did you give the idea of lowering salt intake any consideration?

May 19, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Hi Millie,

I have no problem with animal rights activists as long as the views are balanced. But to put deer antlers in the same category as rhino horns is extremist IMO. Rhinos are endangered, and poachers kill them to get their horns. Deer are overpopulating many areas and they do not need to be killed to get the antlers. See link:

Velvet antler

In my area, the growing deer population is not only a nuisance, but a hazard to motorists and they carry lyme disease. A few years ago, they allowed open hunting to thin down the deer population and scientists are trying to figure out ways to prevent deer from breeding. Reducing the deer population is beneficial for both deer and humans.

Regarding the salt intake, you are preaching to the choir. I am a certified nutritionist and I offer nutritional coaching to friends, colleagues, and local businesses. My salt intake is well within FDA recommendations last I checked. For 3 days, I literally weighed everything that went into my mouth and ran a nutritional analysis. My salt intake was on the low end of the FDA recommendations.

BTW, anyone that wants to get into shape, send me an email and I will be happy to share my nutrition tips. I personally dropped 20 lbs in 3 months and kept it off and I have helped others drop literally hundreds of pounds of fat.

May 19, 2014 at 11:27 AM · Millie,

Your friend that was advised to reduce salt intake, did she do it? And did it help with the tinnitus?

May 19, 2014 at 03:12 PM · Just some more or less generic comments:

We know that playing music can affect hearing. Hence regular hearing tests are useful, to say nothing of what they'll tell you about the effects of the rest of your life. When you have a test, be sure to get a printout of everything, so you have something to compare over time. This will include an audio spectrum response curve, which will let you see what you're not hearing. Somebody mentioned detecting noise-related hearing loss; this apparently shows up as a dip in sensitivity in the 5000 Hz range, and shows on the printout.

We need to keep in mind how much hearing loss is payback for the sins of our youth, both musical (as rock concerts) and mechanical (as motorcycles, power tools). It takes decades for all this to come home to roost, so it is interesting but not helpful to discover at 65 what you should have been doing at 35. I started using headphone-type hearing protectors for anything loud enough to be annoying, the most attenuation you can get conveniently, and they make a big difference even with a vacuum cleaner. For playing I do what others have mentioned, an ear plug in the left ear, inserted lightly enough that it doesn't make things sound muffled. And yes, I've got some tinnitus, and find the comments in this discussion quite interesting; might be something to be done about it after all.

May 19, 2014 at 11:18 PM · "the proper type of alcohol" - I suppose you COULD try PROPYLENE glycol or glycerol, it might not be too dangerous?

May 20, 2014 at 02:32 AM · I got an update on the search for deer antlers. Apparently, the best ones are the "young" antlers from deer in the northeast part of China. My friend knows someone who raises deer in the mountains and harvests their antlers. Millie will be happy to know that the deer live a happy life and are not killed for their antlers.

About the alcohol, there is one type that works best, but is hard to get and quite expensive. Another friend is still trying to track some down. If all goes well, I might have some in a few weeks time.

This deer antler potion is almost as hard to get as bakers rosin.

May 20, 2014 at 03:04 AM · Remember what I wrote previously about the placebo effect: The more money you pay for your snake oil, the better it works.

May 20, 2014 at 04:19 AM · Hi Smiley, re your question about my friend, she told me that she stopped using salt altogether and only what was found naturally in fresh healthy food, was ingested. Apparently there's more than enough salt in one's diet doing just that. She said it made quite a difference overall, not just for the tinnitus, but sinus, eyes and even helping with breathing. She even lost some weight, once again likely due to fluid retention salt encourages. Not a miracle cure by any standards but quite a bit of relief.

This encouraged me to do the same, because I've been a chronic sinus sufferer. I fully understand what you mean when say you did everything to help your son with his food allergies. I went through the same desperate search for some years. Anything new on the market would be tested, anything weird and wonderful suggested on the internet was given a go, the only thing I refused to do was have surgery, which doctors only suggested because they were at a loss for any more to do. As it turned out, a much healthier lifestyle was required including salt reduction, and the only thing I take regularly nowadays are herbal and nutritional 'immune boosters' and half an antihistamine. If I catch a cold I'm straight onto decongestant tablets and saline rinses, until the worst is over. Now I suffer a lot less.

The reasons I am quite vocal about protecting wildlife is partly due to the culture I live in and partly due to the immense and immediate need for many of earth's creatures. Here in Oz, each and every native animal is protected, bar none. Yes, sometimes the Kangas get a bit high in number, competing with farms for grazing and only then do the government allow a cull. But it's well regulated. In our market places we don't see stalls loaded with magpie beaks, kurrawong claw, snake skin, koala ears, roo tails, lizard tongues and all other bits and pieces belonging to wildlife. Apart from the weirding out factor, some cultures you see on tv show markets with all sorts of body parts from endangered and non-endagered wild species, absolutely almost by the ton. If that wasn't enough, even insects can't escape the world's ravenous consumption. Baskets upon baskets of parts that mostly had to come from dead wildlife. Nothing seems to be sacred or respected. My concern is that a simple interest by one or two people in antler potion, if found to be a potent enough to fix some of the worlds maladies, would result in a free for all carnage that would be hard to put the brakes on. I know deer can be pests in your country, and I know antlers and velvet can be harvested without killing the animals, but someone needs to be the voice of concern before it were ever to get out of control. We've seen too much of this before. Somehow we don't learn. My personal hero, Sir David Attenborough, has spent much of his career creating volumes of movies, not only about the sheer beauty and diversity of the world's flora and fauna, but also to educate upcoming generations about the absolute necessity to take care of our earth and what is left on it. It's worthwhile sitting down to a few episodes, truly amazing stuff.

I don't wish to come across as a paranoid crank about this, but my plea is, ease up on the wildlife, they didn't make us sick. Wouldn't it be wonderful if one day the whole world was united in a 'hands off' approach to the care of the worlds' wild?

See what you started, Brian. Lol :)

May 20, 2014 at 01:55 PM · Food intolerance (as opposed to food allergy) is a good suggestion - intolerances can cause the most bizarre and unlikely problems. Wheat and milk products (usually cow's) are the most common suspects - sometimes oranges and/or chocolate.

Some researchers have found tinnitus or 'ringing in the ears' as a result of exposure to microwave radiation. This could be mobile phone or 'passive exposure' to wifi, mobile phone masts etc. I have a slight ringing in my ears which I'm sure is not noise related, and I know I'm somewhat electro-sensitive, although I have not been able to connect the two.

Prof Martin Pall has identified tinnitus as one of the problems which his proposed disease 'paradigm' may cover, and he has a nutritional protocol for dealing with them. More info at http://www.thetenthparadigm.org/otherdiseases.htm

May 20, 2014 at 02:24 PM · Hi Millie,

I too suffered from chronic sinus problems. I couldn't leave the house without facial tissues. Then about 12 years ago, I decided to cut out ice cream from my diet (I used to eat a lot of ice cream). I wanted to lose some weight so I could be a better volleyball player. Well, I didn't lose any weight, but to my surprise, my allergies completely cleared up. It took me decades to figure it out, but milk products were making me sneeze. I don't know what your diet is like, but thought I'd mention it. In your case maybe it could be something else besides milk that is making you allergic.

I admire your passion about saving the earth and its inhabitants. I still think your views are a bit extreme, but you have my respect :-)

PS I found a source for deer antler as well as strong wine in downtown DC. I am going today to get some. I am not overly optimistic that it will work, but I am going to give it a try.

May 20, 2014 at 07:00 PM · I picked up the deer antler (sliced and dried) and the wine. This is what they look like.

The wine is 112 proof (56% alcohol) made from sorghum. According to the pharmacist, the antler has to be soaked in the wine for at least a month before it is consumed (1 small shot once a day). Then it could take several weeks or months for it to have an effect. I will post back with the results.

May 20, 2014 at 09:27 PM · I haven't - yet - read all the above, but I have bought a sound meter: not precise enough to take legal procedings against neighbours, but enough to compare different situations (street, Paris metro, orchestra etc.) I use dBC, as it is less "corrected" ("weighted") for "average" hearing than the common dBA.

My violin, played ff, gives nearly 100dB with the mic just next to my ear. Not only is this at damage level, and for many hours at a time, but all this energy is concentrated on one note at a time (unlike e.g. street noise).

I have always stuffed cotton wool in my left ear, and so I am (at 65) only suffering from a loss of consonants(as in "What did you say? Hey, don't shout, I'm not deaf!") although I do get a "white noise" tinitus when I am tired and/or drink too much coffee.

O.K. it's too late for many of us, but please, please, please can we all warn parents and children about the permanent damage caused by our marvelous instrument! I find professionals just don't want to discuss it, but we have a tremendous responsability....

May 20, 2014 at 09:50 PM · Adrian, is cotton wool enough for children? When my daughter upgraded to bigger size violin (still fractional), she immediately complained about loudness and we started to use cotton wool in the left ear and she was happier. Not sure if cotton wool filters enough, it is not pushed to the ear canal, just covers the entrance.

May 20, 2014 at 10:08 PM · Hi Smiley, thanks for the tip about ice cream. I have done the no dairy diet to death just about, and have had no success with that. Then the hallowed skin prick test which meant a trip to Melbourne, with nothing coming up as an allergen reaction. Dairy and especially icecream are one of my favourite foods, but I have backed off a lot on some of them because I overindulged anyway and there's a saturated fat factor to consider. I used to be about 15 kg overweight (that was just enough to put me into the 'obese' category going by the BMI scale) and when I eventually lost that with exercise and stuck to healthy unprocessed food, in conjunction with less salt and my immune boosters, the sinusitis was much much improved. I put the fact I was sick down to being unhealthy, pure and simple. It's not entirely gone but things are a fair bit better. Luckily I don't have tinnitus but I'm tempted now to go find an earplug or two to protect my ears while playing.

Good luck with your antler potion, although it looks like it won't be, er, tasty. I can't imagine anything like that would remotely help with tinnitus, but what would I know? It's funny but when you said you were to buy a high grain alcohol, I was imagining spirits, not wine. But there you go.

May 21, 2014 at 06:09 PM · The product pictured, Red Star erguotou, is a distilled spirit (baijiu) made from sorghum. The closest thing commonly available in the US is probably vodka.

May 21, 2014 at 06:25 PM ·

May 21, 2014 at 10:20 PM · Smiley, may I suggest a possibly even better alternative to your sorghum wine - Irish poteen. I mean, not the etiolated commercially available stuff, but the traditional 90%+ (v/v) the acquisition of which involves knowing the right sort of person in Ireland. This person will introduce you to a friend of a friend in an out-of-the-way pub. This meeting will be followed over the next few days by a series of cutouts culminating in a blindfold 25-mile night journey by car over difficult roads to halfway up a mountain. Here you will be escorted on foot, still blindfolded, for a couple of miles across the moors to a little cottage where the blindfold is removed. There you will be invited to sample the product and proceed with the purchase if you are still standing. Afterwards you will then be taken, again blindfolded, back to where you came from, but by a completely different route - in the interests of security (i.e. yours), you understand.

May 21, 2014 at 10:28 PM · Paul and Trevor,

You both seem quite knowledgeable about hard liquor. Perhaps there is an AA meeting in your future :-)

May 22, 2014 at 03:28 AM · All my knowledge about Red Star erguotou came from Wikipedia. I've never tasted the stuff and I don't care to. Probably contains melamine. :)

May 22, 2014 at 10:59 AM · Some years ago a friend of mine - who had introduced me to Irish traditional music - returned from a trip to Ireland with a bottle of the real poteen. How did he obtain it? Well, let's just say that the story in my previous post was a very much tarted up account of how he came by it. As you would expect.

He let me try a drop, no more than a teaspoon. Powerful stuff. Within a minute my legs started to feel distinctly wobbly, and I think lighting a cigarette had I been a smoker would have been a hazardous action. No hangover. An interesting experience, but not one I'd repeat. My usual tipple is a good English ale.

May 22, 2014 at 01:46 PM · To the question about cotton wool: No, ordinary cotton balls don't attenuate noise much, if at all. If you're looking for something similar, you want "Swedish wool," which is sold specifically for noise control. On the other hand, there are plenty of inexpensive ear plugs of multiple types readily available, including the "musician's ear plugs" that are designed to reduce sound levels selectively. I think that you have to experiment to find something that works.

May 23, 2014 at 05:27 PM · I read somewhere that tinnitus comes from the brain making the hair cells in the cochlea vibrate with tones that it wants to hear but no longer can; or maybe just the nerve connections, if the cells are damaged..

Dunno. Anyone?

May 24, 2014 at 11:33 AM · It was suggested above that tinnitus is caused by water retention and reducing salt intake could help. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that it is caused by weak kidneys. The truth is, no one really knows. There could be many different causes. For that reason, I believe that treatment is hit or miss -- try one thing, if that doesn't work, try something else.

I have seen statistics on the percentage of people that suffer from tinnitus, but I have not seen statistics on treatments and how successful they are. My hunch is that treatments are not very successful and most people learn to live with it.

May 25, 2014 at 12:54 AM · My tinnitus has gradually worsened from the age of three or four. Noise exposure (as a rock drummer) may have worsened it, but the cause -- who knows? I think I play the fiddle in part to drown out the tinnitus . . .

May 25, 2014 at 06:46 PM · "Another study links nerve damage to gluten sensitivity. Gluten has been identified as a potential neurotoxin, and many with gluten sensitivity do not manifest symptoms of classic celiac disease, but instead develop nerve damage.


Below is a small list of some of the more commonly known:


Carpal tunnel syndrome



Multiple sclerosis

Restless legs syndrome

Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (Neuropathy)

Parkinson’s disease

Lou Gehrig’s disease

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy








June 6, 2014 at 12:44 PM · Here's an update for anyone that is interested. I have the deer antler soaking in the wine and plan to start that in another 2-3 weeks. But in the mean time, I have done a few things that seem to have really improved the tinnitus. I'm not sure which remedy is working, but there is a pretty noticeable improvement.

- more regular exercise for better sleep (at least 7-8 hours sleep per night)

- lowered my intake of animal protein and switched over to more vegetable protein (on the assumption that vegetable proteins are not as hard on the kidneys)

- taking a tinnitus supplement that I happened upon at the Chinese pharmacy when I was picking up the deer antler. It is called Sensor Tea Extract. It can be purchased on Amazon.

Sensor Tea Extract

To rule out the placebo effect, I have been testing my hearing by rubbing my fingers together to see how far away I can hear the rubbing. A few weeks ago, I could hear rubbing from 7-8 inches. Now, it is 10-12 inches. This is by no means a substitute for a proper hearing test, but it is something simple I can do without going to a doctors office.

June 7, 2014 at 08:56 AM · To return to the question (!!) can anyone enlighten us on hallucination-vs-actual parasitical vibration of the hair-cells, or of the little muscles holding the little bones?

June 8, 2014 at 10:23 AM · I am being more convinced that tinnitus is related to Phantom Limb, either as a rewire or a missing sensation. There is also a link with tinnitus to depression. I really doubt that tinnitus causes depression, but people with depression have a tendency to dwell on the negative. If tinnitus is a memory or a rewire, it may make sense that the more you focus on it the louder it will become. As an example, listening to white noise before sleeping may suppress the memory, while if you hum or repeat the frequency the memory will get stronger.

June 8, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Oops!

June 8, 2014 at 12:46 PM · I am tempted to consider the "missing limb" theory. At 65, I have lost much of my previously acute perception of frequencies above 10-12kHz. I now have a phantom white noise (or rather light blue noise).

June 8, 2014 at 10:16 PM · What makes either of you think there is any connection between tinnitus and missing limb? I have both and I'm pretty darn sure there is no connection.

June 8, 2014 at 10:24 PM · No connection, Lyle, I'm sure, but is it possible that both are due to the brain trying to continue sensations that have ceased on a physical plane?

Edit: I think we non-experts were thinking of "lost limb" rather than "missing limb". Sorry to be so clumsy..

June 9, 2014 at 01:24 AM · I was assuming "lost" rather than "born without," and mine (hand) was lost 44 years ago. I still feel it and can "move" it. Sometimes it hurts or itches. I still don't think tinnitus is anything like that, but I'm only one case.

June 9, 2014 at 09:09 PM · Tinnitus can also be a symptoms of B12 deficiency, for me it was.

Since I have been on vitamin B12 injections daily it has totally gone.

Not everyone will need injections daily, however many people will need them as often as every couple of weeks.

Of course a few (very few) people will do ok with very high dose of sublingual methylcobalamin (a type of B12 simpler to absorb), I am not that lucky, I 'need' injections. Since correcting my B12 'problem' a whole load of things have disappeared, my mind is sharper and I even have my coordination back on playing the violin.


June 10, 2014 at 10:30 PM · I've heard that in an anechoic chamber, where it's extremely quiet, you'll hear a high-pitched noise that's the sound of blood flowing through the veins in your ears. Maybe tinnitus is related to this, perhaps as increased sensitivity or a change in blood flow.

I started noticing a bit of tinnitus at about the same time I took up the violin at age 59. Coincidence? At least I can still hear faint sounds and musically I'm as good as ever. I do have more trouble understanding faint or muffled voices than I used to - especially if there's a lot of background noise - but I'm not sure this is related to my tinnitus, which is still quite mild.

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