Tinnitus: The curse of Captain Kirk

  • Another celebrity gets the annoying buzz
  • What you should never eat if you suffer this ear problem
  • How to avoid splashing out money on expensive hearing aids

Another celebrity came out earlier this year.

As a tinnitus sufferer.

This time it was 45-year-old sports presenter, Kirsty Gallacher.

She told the Loose Women programme that she woke up one morning with what she thought was a cold, because her ears were blocked up.

A week later, she got checked out by the doctors, who found a benign tumour in her ear.

From then on, she had a buzzing, crackling noise in her ears all day, every day, even as she tried to present TV programmes.

In particular, it affected her sleep.

“If you focus on the noise and it’s silent, I often can’t get back to sleep for two more hours,” she said. “So actually, I can’t function like that, as a single working mum…”

It just goes to show that tinnitus is not just something suffered by rock musicians and people who listen to their earphones at too high a volume.

It can affect lots of people, at any age, for any number of reasons.

What’s more, the problem can emerge very quickly, from out of the blue.

Take the experience of Captain Kirk, for instance…

The Curse of Shatner

Famously, William Shatner, the hero from Star Trek, suffers from tinnitus. And in his case, it came on very suddenly…

“I remember having a surge of panic,” Shatner told the Today show back in 1997. “And that moment of panic, when I realised that I was hearing something inside my head, I wanted to run and escape the sound. And that only increased the panic because there was no place to run.”

This desire for an ‘escape’ is what leads many tinnitus sufferers to depression, anxiety and other psychological problems.

It may seem like a mild problem for those who don’t suffer it, but it can easily escalate into a serious issue. In Shatner’s case it helped end a marriage and led him to the brink of suicide.

There are other celebrity examples too, including Eric Clapton, Steve Martin, Liza Minnelli and Ozzy Osbourne.

In the latter case, it probably was loud music that did it.

For instance, Pete Townshend from The Who, has noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. When playing live, he now uses custom-made hearing protection.

He also promotes hearing loss awareness through the organisation, Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers (HEAR).

But what about people who aren’t rock stars?

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) say that the condition affects 1 in 8 people in this country and the causes aren’t always clear, but could include head injuries, ear infections and common medications.

Drugs that make your ears ring

Common culprits include Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and naproxen.

Also certain antibiotic, anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants and antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine and quinine.

So if you’re on any of those and you’re developing whistles, buzzes and clicks in your ears that you can’t otherwise explain, it could be worth checking out.

You should also make sure there’s not another underlying problem with your hearing (most opticians now offer hearing tests).

It could also be that certain kinds of food and drink are making the problem worse.

These include sugar, salt, saturated fats, dairy products and processed foods, as well as drinks with caffeine such as Coke, coffee and tea.

By this I don’t mean stop using any sugar or salt in drinks and food or give up coffee and tea.  But beware the hidden saturated fats, sugars and salts the food manufacturers slip into seemingly healthy everyday products.

My advice is to avoid processed ready-meals and the like altogether. You simply can’t control your intake of these trigger foods unless you prepare your own meals with fresh ingredients.

Added to that, you need to up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and keep your blood pressure under control with some regular exercise.

And finally, while there is no ‘cure’ as such for tinnitus, you could potentially control and ease the problem with some of these natural remedies:

  • Niacinis a form of vitamin B3, which opens up your blood vessels. This allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach the vital parts of your ear.
  • Ginkgo bilobahelps dilate blood vessels and increase the blood flow to your ear. Spicy foods like cayenne pepper and ginger work in a similar way.
  • Bayberry bark, burdock root, goldenseal and hawthornleaf also help protect the blood flow to your ear and reduce infection.

You should also add plenty of garlic to your food. This is great for circulation and blood pressure. And eat some fresh pineapple two or three times a week. It helps lower inflammation.

How to avoid splashing out money on expensive hearing aids

One of the common remedies for tinnitus is to get a hearing aid, some of which come with a special channel to mask the noise in your ear.

These kinds of hearing aids aren’t accessible on the NHS and can now cost around £4,000 – £5,000 per pair.

So if you want to avoid this cost, I highly recommend you get hold of a copy of Banish the Noise and Recapture the Silence: The Tinnitus Solution.

It’s a brilliant guide with everything you could possibly need to know as a tinnitus suffer.

Click here to find out more.