Throughout the year, patients present to my office with symptoms of headaches and vertigo. Often, their regular physician is unable to diagnose the cause. Dizziness, the sensation that the room is spinning, ear fullness, ringing in the ears are just some of the symptoms that these patients present with when they seek treatment.
When preparing to treat these issues, I ask these patients several questions.
1. Is your vertigo worse when you go from the horizontal position to vertical? Is it worse when going from sitting to standing?
2. Does the room spin? Are your eyes moving left to right without control? Nausea?
3. Is there a feeling of fullness in the ear? Is hearing impaired in one or both ears?
4. Do their ears ring in one or both ears?
5. Is there congestion in their sinuses? Did they have a cold in the last three months?
6. Have they been swimming?
7. Have they consumed a fair amount of ice cream, sugar or dairy?
8. Is there mold in their house? A musty smell?
9. Is there a fair amount of wax in their ear that they are trying to extrude?
10. Do they suffer from allergies or hayfever?
11. Did they spend time around loud music or industrial noise?
12. Are they flying in airplanes, especially small planes?
13. Did they have a tendency to ear infections as a child? Did they experience a perforated eardrum?
14. Are they experiencing balance problems?
These questions often lead me to understand their diagnosis: a low-grade infection of the inner ear, often undetectable by the use of an otoscope or other means. In these cases, tinnitus and vertigo may well we treated with integrative functional medicine, using chiropractic, acupuncture points, laser therapy, ear candling and cranial sacral therapy as a means for recovery.
Often, the Eustachian tube, accessible in the oral cavity is blocked. A simple procedure can be used to unblock it and allow for drainage. Sometimes there is a waxy build-up that needs to be extruded. Ear candles can be effective in creating a vacuum that allows the ear wax to be pulled into the candle. Once an ear has been candled, the patient should not submerge their head underwater for a week.While candling is not considered a treatment for tinnitus, it can be part of the protocol for correcting vertigo issues.
Occasionally, the small bones of the ear have been misplaced by congestion and they can be manipulated back into place with a simple maneuver. This may assist in the drainage process.
There are several remedies that can be taken orally or sprayed into the ears and nose that will assist the patient in clearing the low-grade infection. Each of these remedies must be chosen carefully and used according to strict instructions. It may take a week to affect a change, yet relief of symptoms is generally long term. Environmental mold can be a causative factor, as the remnants of a bad cold. Low-grade sinus infections can also lead to inner and middle ear issues that will then cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo.
Laser therapy to the ear will normalize function both in the ear and in various parts of the body and is an effective adjunct to treating vertigo and tinnitus. Any therapy that encourages lymph drainage is paramount to treating these conditions. This may call for a change in diet…. especially if it includes late-night snacking on ice cream and other sugary desserts.
Because the large intestines, lungs and sinuses are on similar acupuncture circuits, I usually advise my patients to modify their diet to exclude sugar, desserts and dairy products to expedite their healing process. These foods are not well assimilated or digested by some and will cause congestion in these three areas.
Cranial sacral therapy, a light touch adjusting therapy to the head usually allows for drainage. Often, the patient can feel the drainage happen a few minutes into the treatment.
Crystals or debris may also form in their inner ear, which then will cause balance issues or dizziness with change of position. This is referred to as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo. In this case, the Epley Maneuver can be applied. This can be done in the office, with home care that the patient follows for one week afterwards.
It is important to screen for allergies, especially hay fever as this may lead to sinusitis and subsequent inner ear congestion. This too can be treated with functional medicine, supplementation and on the body treatments.
As you can see, there are a myriad of causes and differentiating symptoms in the differential diagnosis of vertigo and tinnitus. If there is a serious infection or pain in the middle or inner ear, it must be treated by an MD. If the tinnitus or hearing loss is a result from nerve damage, little may be done to treat it.
That said, I have successfully treated many cases of vertigo that were the result of allergies, congestion, poor diet, inner ear crystals, sinusitis and blocked Eustachian tubes. Know that there is hope if you are suffering from these symptoms and if nothing else, take a look at your diet – maybe its time to give up the late night ice cream!