What is tinnitus (ear ringing)? What is it caused by?

What is tinnitus (ear ringing)? What is it caused by?

Many people are bothered by tinnitus. They have undergone many tests but still can’t find the reason why they have this condition.

From my clinical experience and according to Chinese medicine theory, some cases of tinnitus can be associated with internal organ disorder and certain channels being blocked.

In this article I would like to share my knowledge with you, and help you to find the cause of your tinnitus.

1. What is symptoms of tinnitus

Tinnitus is a ringing condition in the inner ear, the ringing frequency can be dissimilar, it can be of high or low pitch, heavy or fine pitch. Some people relate tinnitus to insect sounds or loud airplanes. Many people of varying ages are diagnosed with tinnitus, many of whom are left untreated. The ringing condition comes and goes without notice, especially during the quietest time the ringing becomes more obvious, this can greatly impede one’s life-style, for example, affecting listening ability and sleep, resulting in restlessness whilst sitting up or lying down.

2. Causes

a.) Tinnitus due to Kidney disorder

The kidneys are considered to be one of the vital organs causing tinnitus. In Chinese medicine the kidneys and ears have a close internal relationship because “the Kidneys open up to the ears”. The Kidneys are responsible for promoting Qi and Blood to the ears, and maintaining normal physiological functioning. When your Kidneys are disordered such as kidney yin weakness the ears are unable to receive adequate Blood and Qi from the Kidneys, resulting in tinnitus.

The characteristics of tinnitus caused by kidney disorder;
The ringing sound can be as fine as insect sounds, if you use your hands to cover the ears, the ringing sound will be diminished or disappear. At the same time, you may have the following symptoms such as; lethargy, dizziness, waist/hip pain, knee pain, impotence, lowered libido, frequent urination (especially at night-time), thirsty at night-time, wake up early.

Suggestions for tinnitus due to Kidney disorder:

  1. i) How to help this type of tinnitus?
    Usually with this type of tinnitus we tonify the kidneys to help improve the circulation to the ear.
  2. ii) What to eat?
    You should eat certain foods which work by tonifying the kidneys. Foods such as; black sesame seeds, goji berries, prawns, beef or beef bone soup, black kidney beans, soya beans (If you would like some more suggestions, please see our other articles on diet therapy).

iii) Looking after your lower back
As the kidneys are located in the lower back, you should keep the lower back in a good condition to ensure that the area is warm and rich in circulation. If you have lower back pain it is important to resolve this issue while you are undergoing treatment for tinnitus.

  1. iv) Avoid overdoing sexual intercourse
    Chinese medicine believes that having too much intercourse will reduce kidney essence. If the kidney essence becomes weak it may cause tinnitus.

b.) Tinnitus due to Liver and gallbladder disorder

Chinese medicine considers liver and gallbladder disorder is another cause of tinnitus.

Why does the diseased Liver or Gall Bladder result in tinnitus? Because the meridians of the Liver and Gall bladder run around the ears, when the Liver and Gall bladder have a blockage and heat, it will move along the meridians reaching the ears, blocking the ear circulation, causing tinnitus.

This type of tinnitus has a particular sound intensity and feature: it sounds like running water or loud machinery noise. When the ears are covered by the hands, the ringing sound will louder. At the same time you may have the following symptoms, such as; easily to become angry, very emotional, stressed, reddened face and hot body, restlessness and frequent dreaming, insomnia, constipation or sluggish bowel movement, abdomen feeling full or bloating, neck and shoulder stiff and painful, headache and itchy ears.

Suggestions for tinnitus due to Liver and gallbladder disorder:

  1. i) Avoid spicy and deep-fried foods
    If you have this type of tinnitus, you should avoid spicy food and deep-fried foods, you should eat a reasonable amount of food that clears and balances the Liver and gallbladder. Celery, carrot, oranges, green tea, mint tea, lemon and green leafy vegetables help to clear the blockage and heat within the Liver and Gallbladder, and adjusts ear circulation to help tinnitus.
  2. ii) Slow down your lifestyle
    The liver and gallbladder are affected by stress and strong emotions. By slowing down you lifestyle and reducing the pressures on you it can support the liver and gallbladder which can prevent tinnitus.

iii) Do relaxing exercise outdoors
Doing regular relaxing exercise such as walking, light jogging, swimming, yoga, tai chi, meditation and listening to soft music is good for your liver and gallbladder function.

c.) Other reasons causing tinnitus

Chinese medicine also believes that if there is a circulation problem around the ear, neck or shoulder region it may cause tinnitus, such as; motor vehicle accidents, injury to the neck and shoulder blades, sinus or nasal blockage, headaches and severe cold/flu, infection in the teeth.

3. What do you do if you suffer from tinnitus?

  1. i) If you have tinnitus which you are unable to treat by yourself, you should seek medical attention to get a general health check up.
  2. ii) When you come to see us, we find out the cause of the tinnitus through traditional diagnosis methods (tongue and pulse). We will make an individual treatment plan for you which may include Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, Chinese massage and/or scrubbing.


Post Tags:

Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.

  • clearefle

    “Celery, carrot, green tea, mint tea, lemon and green leafy vegetables help to clear the disease within the Liver and Gall Bladder, and adjusts ear circulation to reduce tinnitus.”
    Something I doubt …

    14 December, 2010
  • Don Carley

    Hi I have stage 4 cerrritos with no simptons and also have ringing in my left ear
    At times it is hard to cope with all my blood work is oka however my liver biopsy came back with Cerritos is there any thing I can do for the ringing and also if I had a transplant of my liver would it cure the tinnitus
    Thank you and hope for a response

    4 October, 2013
  • Barrett Haynes

    Dear Ping Ming Health, Please tell patients & loved-ones do not use earplugs . I cleaned form-rubber earpluga with alcohol & it is solvent & saturated chemicals in my ears, so I have tinittus now. Use swimmer’s earplugs or earmuffs but not dangerous earplugs from drugstores with
    NO WARNING label. Mothers hurt their children with poison earplugs! I am doing everything I can for my health, I always have but now cursed with chemicals in ears. :-( Barrett Haynes.

    31 August, 2016
    • Kim

      Thank you for sharing this!! It makes sense, but I never would have thought of it!

      28 August, 2017