Putting Your Ears First
Our hearing is one special sense that cannot be remedied once it has progressed chronically. By addressing chronic ear infections, tinnitis and even ear pain immediately, natural medicine can ensure that the beauty of sound will continue for years to come. Years ago, tonsilitis was the typical childhood illness with every winter wind. Now, more and more, ear infections are becoming a "normal" rite of childhood development. Since when did we decide that infections are normal at all? As the ear develops during childhood, the amount and consistency of ear wax is also adjusting to the environment and use of the ear. Oftentimes, excess ear wax can trap bacteria and other contaminents within the external ear canal, contributing to chronic infections. Also, the use of commercial products to wash the hair may produce excess detergent which lodges within the ear canal, stimulating even more wax secretion. Typical symptoms of an ear infection are pain, ache, dizziness and poor equilibrium.
Traditionally, tubes are placed in the ears to maintain an open channel and reduce fluid accumulation. However, this also shifts the infection issue deeper into the ear and increases the volume of bacteria that can infiltrate through the eardrum.
When childhood ear infections begin, there are simple and natural treatments that can help to prevent their progression. Warm oil infusions of garlic and mullein flowers are wonderful and very soothing and they can even influence the middle ear by diffusion across the ear drum. I have found a tonic taken internally is the best remedy. I use a combination of Goldenseal which is a great antibiotic, Pau D’Arco as an antifungal, Echinacea Angustifolia which protects the delicate mucous membranes of the ear, Eyebright, Golden Rod and Cayenne. You can add St. John’s Wort as a potent antiviral which will also act as a tonic to the nerves of hearing, commonly affected in chronic ear infections.
Untreated, or unresolved ear infections can contribute to many other disorders, among them tinnitis aurium or ringing in the ears. Sound waves enter the external auditory canal, strike the eardrum and set up waves that stimulate hairs within the ear. This all occurs because of changes in the air pressure of the ear created by the sound waves. There are also other things that can change the air pressure in the ear, like flying. Even physical substances like ear wax can continually stimulate the hairs leading the brain to interpret this continual stimulus as sound.
But sometimes hearing loss is the result of exposure to things other than bacteria. Normally, humans are born with a complement of about 50,000 hair cells. But as we go through life, we are continually losing these precious hair cells with every exposure to loud noise, infection, and other environmental challenges. It certainly doesn’t help that we choose to listen to Anthrax at full volume with headphones. Repeated exposure to loud noise causes them to go stiff and as we know when you’re stiff, you’re dead. That spells disaster for our hearing since these cells do not regenerate. So depending on our llifestyle and exposure, the steady rate of hair-cell loss that can accompany aging produces significant hearing loss in about a third of the population by the time they reach 70 years of age.
These small hair cells can also become stiff from certain drugs, chronic fluid accumulation or excess ear wax, a condition that is common among swimmers. This can be exacerbated by inflammation of the nerves to the ear from infection, nutritional deprivation or tissue restriction. One thing that is a great self therapy is to release all the tissue tension around the ear by pulling down on the earlobes for a period of time each day. Also massaging the area around the ear itself can help to release trapped nerves and lymphatic channels. Another technique that is very successful is releasing the eustachian tube ducts from inside the jaw. This can allow an immediate draining of accumulated fluid and debris even freeing the Vestibulocochlear Nerve responsible for our sense of hearing and equilibrium. This is a key aspect of treatment of Meniere’s Syndrome.
Nutritional concerns are one of the most important facets of working with hearing issues. For instance, low levels of Folic Acid B12 can lead to weakness of the pineal gland which produces essential hormones and enzymes that can help to repair nerves after infection and excessive sound exposure. A common symptom that I have noticed among people with a pineal gland weakness is hearing radio frequency waves and television static when at a distance from the source. I also will recommend Ginkgo Biloba for increasing microcirculation and therefore reducing symptoms due to restricted cerebral blood flow, such as tinnitis, vertigo and acute cochlear deafness. Dong Quai and Horsechestnut are excellent when there has been inflammation from trauma or injury.
Our hearing is one special sense that cannot be remedied once it has progressed chronically. So we recommend seeking out a natural remedy as soon as symptoms appear. In that way, the chances of restoring the beauty of sound are great indeed.
Karen Clickner, N.D. is the founder and director of ISIS Holistic Clinic & The Waters of ISIS Body Purification Spa in Brookline, MA. You can reach the clinic at www.isisboston.com.