ear

Tinnitus? Check the Neck!

Thirteen years ago I began experiencing a peculiar ringing sound in my ear. It was faint, but high-pitched. I wouldn’t really notice it unless I was in a silent room.

It wasn’t awful; just persistent. Cracking a window or turning on a fan easily drowned out the noise. But I always wondered what was causing it, and what could be done to help.

Later on, I began receiving a specialized form of chiropractic adjustment known as Upper Cervical Care. I started to notice an interesting trend… Soon after each of my adjustments, the ringing in my ear settled down. I could sit in a completely silent room and actually enjoy the silence!

So I did some research and found the results of a German study in the International Tinnitus Journal saying that tinnitus is a symptom of injury to the upper cervical spine. According to their research, tinnitus can disappear after “operative correction and stabilization of the articular geometry.”

Wordy, I know. In a way, they’re suggesting that when the head is properly balanced or realigned with the neck, ringing of the ears can be fixed… After experiencing it first hand through Upper Cervical chiropractic care, I realized how right they were!

Since that time, I’ve watched a number of tinnitus patients improve under care. While not every type of “ear ringing” has an origin in the neck, Upper Cervical Care is a painless procedure that shows promise, and may prove to be an effective alternative to medication and surgery.

White Noise Helps Too

One way to dampen the relentless ringing of tinnitus is to use a white noise machine. The soothing sound of rushing air can be very effective at night time or when you’re trying to work in a quiet room.

The best white noise machine I’ve found is the Marpac Dohm-DH Sound Conditioner.

Do Vitamins Provide Tinnitus Relief?

It’s worth noting that in a 1993 study from the American Journal of Otolaryngology, people with tinnitus and hearing loss had a statistically greater Vitamin B-12 deficiency than people with only hearing loss. Taking Vitamin B-12 supplements reduced tinnitus symptoms in some of the study participants. Here’s a good Vitamin B-12 supplement.

If all else fails, there’s a program currently being sold online called the “Tinnitus Miracle” (click here to check it out). It claims “significant relief in 7 days” but I’ve never tried it. It could very well be a marketing ruse. But feel free to share your experience in the comments section if you’ve tried experimented with it.

61 Responses to “Tinnitus? Check the Neck!”

  1. Find this very interesting. My husband suffers greatly from tinnitus. I’m thinking as a reflexologist that I may put some additional focus on the cervical areas and alignment as you mention to see if he may find a bit of relief. Thanks!

  2. Interesting. I have had neck pains and resulting tension headaches since a month ago (during may when I was studying for exams and tests laying on my stomach with my neck stretched out over a book for hours at a time)I’m only 20 by the way.

    I also have recently developed what seems to be a pulsative tinnitus (the sound of my blood flow) in my ear that typically only occurs when I lay on my stomach to go to sleep.

    Despite that I am done with exams my neck pains and tension headaches still continue but to a way lesser degree. I want to try and start sleeping on my back but it’s very uncomfortable for me. My breasts hurt when I lay on my back, I think its due to the gravitational pull on them. Plus, since my bf likes to watch movies or keep things on at night (I guess it comforts him) lying on my back makes me have to focus on the light or movie or whatever and that bothers me too.

  3. I have suffered from tinnitus for the last 4 months or so. The only relief I get is when I get adjustments on my cervical spine from either a chiropractor, osteopath or naturopath.

    • Hi, I saw your posting and was wondering if noise exposure like so many is the root along with neck degenerative factors. I had both for more that three years and it only getting worse.

  4. I love your blog. Good to see people writing about this subject.

  5. I am a frequent reader of your articles and just wanted to let you know you that I really like your blog.

  6. When a person starts to hear noises in their ears, most of the time they ignore it, and classify it as being normal. This is the time to start searching for the causes of these sounds. Having abnormalities elsewhere in the body also explains why a person might have tinnitus. Since this is not a disease, but a symptom. Of WHAT is the question? Although everyone reacts differently to treatment, this is very good information.

  7. Dennis Kaufman Reply 07/08/2010 at 11:42

    I’ve had moderate tinnitus for 3 months. About a month ago I saw a Tinnitus blog that suggested a “thumping on the back of the head while cupping the ears” could relieve or lessen my tinnitus. After perfoming this proceedure, my tinnitus increaded dramatically and has never gone donw in volume. I am now taking Xanax for the anxiety brought about by this increased tone and volume. Any suggestions for a treatment to diminish this noiw oppressive sound?
    Thanks

    • Dennis, I’ve not heard of that approach… You might consider visiting an Upper Cervical specialist in your area to see if there’s not something they can do to help.

      • I called my local Chiropractor who will evaluate me and work on my neck. Many thanks again for your response

  8. Dennis Kaufman Reply 07/31/2010 at 11:45

    My chiropractor evaluated me and said that his wife has tinnitus and he could’t help her but would try neck adjustments.The morning afer the last of two treatments by him I awoke to terrible vertigo was re-evaluated by him and declined futher treatments, worried that his ne3ck manipulation had in some way caused the vertigo. I’ve since gone to a Physical Therapist who diagnosed it as BPPV and recommended what is called the “Eply Maneuver” to re-establish the balance in my inner ear which he did. I thought it had worked but the vertigo returned when I layed down to sleep and moved my head. Any idea?

  9. Another reader with Tinnitus here.

    I’ve had loud ringing since December 09 in my left ear. ENT and tests show no damage to my ear drum, my hearing or my brain. My new dentist told me I show some signs of TMJ disorder.

    I found this blog during a internet search of trying to find evidance of ear ringing and spine issues. I work long hours at a computer and recently showed some signs of RSI and general back pain.

    It is possible that my ringing is due to my spine? I’m booking an assessment at a local chiropractor. But it seems I should look for something more specific?

    • Hi Neil, it’s definitely a possibility. I recommend finding an Upper Cervical specialist in your area. Conventional chiropractors can be great, but in this instance you might prefer the precision and specificity of an Upper Cervical chiropractor.

  10. I’ve suffered with tinnitus for nearly a year I’ve tried medications and special music treatment programs but my ear still rings. There is no upper cervical specialist in my small town. I am going to see a regular chiiropractor tomorrow. I’ll let you know jow it turns out.

  11. Hello,

    I’ve had tinnitus for 14 years (since I was 11). It’s been pretty much the same but has gotten worse several times in the last couple of weeks. I have no idea what is causing it. I went to a general chiro who says I have 2″ of forward head posture and some pinched nerves in the lower neck. Could this be causing the increase?

    • John, it’s a possibility. There’s certainly a link between misalignment of the head/neck and tinnitus symptoms. If you don’t notice any improvement after receiving a course of conventional chiropractic care, don’t give up. Consult with an Upper Cervical specialist if need be.

      • Hi,

        I have had tinnitis for two years, and the volume has steadily increased to a point where I can see it potentially causing nausia in certain cases? Has anyone else experienced this?

        Also, having read these blogs, I have noticed that I can change the pitch and volume of noise by tensing different muscles in my neck and when aligning my head to extreme angles to by my spine.

        My chiro does micro adjustments and spends time on my lower skull and upper back….is this what an Upper Cervical Specialist does?

      • Randy, I’m not familiar with the phrase “micro adjustment.”

  12. Can some one help me! I have been blessed with tinnitus since October 2010 and at times the noise is very low and at times it gets very loud, during which my eyes become very irritated, my lips burn, my tongue gets dry and burns and my entire face feels very warm, feverish like, does anyone suffering from tinnitus have the same problems and if so what can be done to help relieve this agony? I really appreciate your help. Thank you.

    Ercilia

  13. I am also going to a Chiropractor who uses the Pro Adjuster for treatments, he has told me that their is some misalignment in my neck, I recently had a CS and it did confirm along the lines that he concurred through my neck X-Ray. He will confer with me at my next visit to determine the degree of treatment that will be of some help.

  14. Lucy Waletzky Reply 01/10/2011 at 19:32

    A chiropractor has helped my neck problems a lot and for the first time in 3 months the symptom of pulsating tinnitus is more variable and often reduced.My CAT scan had showed multiple neck problems.I knew my neck was involved because when I touched my toes the ringing stopped

  15. I have had tinnitus since 1987. It started when I was taking antibiotics for a strep throat infection, and it drove me nuts for many years until it finally died down to where I only noticed it when it was very quiet, but I had to sleep with one of those machines that makes different sounds like the ocean, rainfall, etc. Last August, I had to take Zantac for a heartburn problem that was caused by another antibiotic, and I woke up one morning with a screeching noise in my right ear. Then a few days later, I woke up with the same noise in my left ear. The tinnitus was back with a vengeance. When I looked up Zantac side effects, tinnitus was listed, so I stopped taking the Zantac and hoped that the tinnitus would go away, but it didn’t. It has been five months now, and it seems to be getting worse. I sleep on my side, but I alternate from side to side during the night, and it gets very loud in whichever ear is on the pillow.

  16. Dr. Tanase:

    I’m a 52 healthy man who was recently diagnosed with cervical pinched nerves C5-C6. Right after an MRI scan I noted ringing in my ears that I still have since then. My doctor said that it is very unlikely that the loud noise of the MRI machine caused me tinnitus. I had ear plugs on during the lengthy scan. Now that I read this article I have hope that this annoying tinnitus could be caused by my pinched nerves and that it will resolve with treatment. I’ll be seeing a neurosurgeon soon. What are your thoughts about it?

    • Roberto, I recommend getting an evaluation from an Upper Cervical Chiropractor in your area.

      • Dr. Tanase, this is a follow up from my previous post prior to the cervical disc replacement. I had this surgical procedure two and a half months ago and I’m currently finishing physical therapy to improve neck movement and stiffness. I returned to the gym and to my normal life. My neck has improved although I still feel some pain or soreness radiating from the base of the skull. Dr. my main concern is that the tinnitus has not resolved as expected and I rather have good days and bad days with it. Sometimes it is very low and unnoticed during the day to a sudden increase at night time while in bed. Sometimes is the reverse and I can have a decent sleep. I also feel that gym and PT exercises are aggravating my tinnitus. I already saw an ENT and my ears are healthy. Should I still see a Chiropractor?

      • Roberto, I think it would be advantageous to receive an evaluation from an Upper Cervical chiropractor.

  17. steve michelman Reply 04/26/2012 at 10:20

    interesting. after i did neck exercises following mild whiplash my tinnitus gone through the roof. my doctor says there is no connection but i disagree. would value your opinion

    • I wouldn’t say the exercises caused your tinnitus, but it is possible that an upper neck misalignment was created or made worse by the accident… Then the exercises you performed simply could have exaggerated the symptoms.

      It’s definitely worth looking into if you can find an Upper Cervical practitioner nearby.

  18. Kelly J Argelliez Reply 08/17/2012 at 18:04

    Hi Dr Tanase,
    My fiance has had a painful neck with pain radiating down his left arm. on 7/24/12 he had his left back molar extracted. two days later he came down with an 80 ecible high pitched tinnitus. had appointment with ENT, MRI of brain/neck/ear with and with out contrast unremarkable. He has had only 2-3 hrs sleep in 20 days. The only medication that he used was prednisone dose pack with no relief. He is not in pain, but the stress and lack of sleep is making him kind of nutty. Do you think upper cevical treatment would be helpful?? Do you know of any practioners in the Sarasota Fl area??

    Thank you,

    Kelly

  19. Dr. Tanase, have you ever treated anyone with pulsatile tinnitus (irregular blood flow noise)? Also, do you know of an upper cervical specialist in Richmond, VA or surrounding area? Thanks!!

  20. Hi. I suffered from pulsatile tinnitus of the right ear for the last six weeks. Saw a ENT and was sent for a CT scan which found nothing. I was then put on gabapentin medication to help relieve the symptoms and to help me sleep, which also did nothing. After reading your blog I visited a chiro who found the top two vertebrae in my neck were misaligned . After realigning,the noise in my ear was faint for two days and then completely disappeared . I have been noise free for just over a week. Thanks to you I believe I am cured. Thank you

  21. Are there a few chiropractors you could recommend on the west side of Oklahoma City?

  22. Hello I am also cursed with Pulsatile tinnitus. After 2 MRIs Mra MRV (I think I have those correct) a CT and lots of blood work they cannot find anything. They did find a vascular loop but it is on the opposite side of my tinnitus. I found on this board all the talk of chiropractor care. I just left the office and my chiro cannot believe how tight my neck is. Said my range of motion was 65% and this could be causing my tinnitus and the clicking of my jaw. I am so so so hopeful. I have had this life changing disorder for 6 months and all my docs have given up on me. I am going to be seeing him a few times a week. I am so happy to hear some of your success stories. It gives me hope. Thank you.

  23. Alessandra Maiolino Reply 02/05/2013 at 06:00

    Hi from London. Last year, on the 25th of March, I woke up feeling a sense of nausea and vertigo: I tried to stand up but the room was spinning around me and I could hardly make my way to the toilet. After two entire days of vomiting and vertigo and lying on the bed, I picked up the phone to call my mum and, to my surprise, I could not hear a sound from the right ear. I also started noticing a strange whistle: ‘is it my heart bit?’ I thought at first. It gradually became a persistent noise (or to be precise all sort of strange noises) in my right ear: I’d never heard of tinnitus before in my life. My GP gave me the wrong diagnosis, he said I had labyrinthitis and made me loose precious time. I then went to see a ENT doctor who told me the bad news that what I had was sudden sensorineural hearing loss and as a consequence I have a severe permanent hearing loss, accompanied by tinnitus and constant dizziness.

    I have suffered from neck pain for more than 10 years. At the onset of my illness, the pain was so intense to make me cry. I had an MRI scan of the neck and ear and they found that I had various problems with the neck vertebrae including arthritis and an herniated disk at C6-C7. However I was told that this problem was unrelated to my deafness and tinnitus, just a coincidence that it is on the same right side of my body and so close to each other!

    I reluctantly believed it, but I’m not a doctor. However, recently, I noticed that, while I do certain yoga positions, in particular the wheel with the head upside down, if I really stretch arching the spine, the tinnitus disappears or it’s almost imperceptible. Is this a sign that something can be done in my case and that if my neck conditions improve my other problems will too?

    Dear Dr Tanase, it’s a shame I live so far away, and I can’t book an appointment with you, but any advise will be really appreciated! My neck problems have been caused or aggravated my prolonged computer work (I’m an architect). I will be back at work next week and I want to make sure that the work will at least not aggravate my condition, which is already so distressing and frustrating!

  24. Hi, thanks for the very interesting article! I have been experiencing ringing in my ears since more than 10 years but the last year got much worse. Just recently I found out that it could be caused due to problems in the upper cervical area usually because of chronic bad posture. I will definitely visit an ‘Upper Cervical Practitioner’ even though I sometimes worry that there are incompetent practitioners and the symptoms might get worse. I wanted to ask you, have you heard of patients who were experiencing hearing loss too and it was improved after the ‘Upper Cervical Care’? Many thanks!

  25. I also have this ringing in my right ear and I am so glad to be able to read some discussion on it. I see a physical therapist who does adjustments which lessens the ringing to barely audible but no matter what, when I try to sleep at night, lying on my back the pitch of the ringing goes much, much higher and I feel small vibrations and heat in my ear. This also happens to a lesser extent while I am sitting. When straight I can barely hear it. I have a 5-10% curve in my back, and obviously my scoliosis is responsible for the ringing, but no matter how much I exercise and stretch, it is always there at night. I can’t sleep, the ringing keeps my mind awake and I have been sleeping for 2-3 hours at a time. It has been 2 months and I am not sure what to do. The adjustments only help for so long, then it gets worse again. And other high pitched and very loud noises make the ringing severely worse, sometimes so loud I can’t hear other things. I feel like an ear doctor is not going to be able to figure this out. I keep getting: “It’s the scoliosis” as an answer from doctors and they refuse to investigate the cause. My physical therapist believes it is nerve entrapment? Which I guess is harder to treat? Is there anything that can be done? If I were to hypothetically go deaf in that ear, would I stop hearing the noise? Or would I still hear it because it’s the nerve? (I am not going to do anything to my ear, not to worry)

    • Vanessa, while I love the work physical therapists do for patients, the type of manipulation that you’re receiving is not the same type of cervical adjustments that Upper Cervical practitioners would give you. There are a lot of terrific Upper Cervical chiropractors in the Chicago area – I recommend that you consult with one before giving up on the neck-tinnitus connection.

  26. Hello. I have been on an 18 month journey of continual misdiagnosis for a floating/spacy sensation and imbalance, coupled with neck spasms and seering headaches, sinus type facial pain and photophobia. In May this year, I had an occlusal day and night splint made for my jaw as I was grinding my teeth a lot. I finally ended up at a Neurologist who has suggested I have occipital neuraligia.

    5 weeks ago, (now July 10 2013), I developed high pitched tinnitus. It is hard to fall asleep and stay asleep it is that loud and it is painfull. Is it possible that occipital neuralgia contributes to tinnitus or could the occlusal splints be affecting the TMJ somehow? I can’t see how it can be hearing loss all of a sudden….I am only 40!

    I live in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. I read you suggest Upper Cervical Chiropractors which sounds like the area I need work in. How do I find one of these? Are there particular credentials that are listed by their names?

    Look forward to a resppnse.

  27. Hi, I am 40 years old, from Buenos Aires, Argentina and have been suffering tinnitus for the last year or so. It has been reducing my capacity to concentrate and made me sensitive to high pitched noises. It’s hard for me to share a meal with my young kids and not get very irritated if they scream or talk loudly. Low pitched noise does not bother me too much.

    I am thin, have a long neck and work from home office doing IT maintenance. That means sitting in a bad posture for many hours per day. I sometimes pop my neck and the tinnitus changes intensity, so I am suspecting it is related to my cervicals.

    There are no upper cervical practicioners from my area listed here: http://upcspine.com/prac2.asp?rid=3

    The closest one is in Rosario, 400 kilometers away. I don’t want to just go to any chiropractor hoping that they know about UC. Can you help me choose a practicioner? What should I ask them? Do they need specific equipment?

    Thanks in advance,
    Axel

  28. Hi ,
    I got a minor head injury. I never got any headaches or dizziness..I got just ringing in ears after that. But i have a bad pain in the whole spinal area my whole back aches badly which dint go away.Do you suggest i consult a chiropractor ?Thanks

  29. Hi, thanks for the very interesting article! I have been experiencing ringing in my ears since more than 10 years but the last year got much worse. Just recently I found out that it could be caused due to problems in the upper cervical area usually because of chronic bad posture. I will definitely visit an ‘Upper Cervical Practitioner’ even though I sometimes worry that there are incompetent practitioners and the symptoms might get worse. I wanted to ask you, have you heard of patients who were experiencing hearing loss too and it was improved after the ‘Upper Cervical Care’? Many thanks!

  30. I found it interesting that high deficiency of B12 could have an affect with ringing in ears. A few days ago I was with friends and loud teens, that night I noticed not sleeping well due to buzzing sound. I go to chiro reg due to migraines and helps me dramatically. I have low B12 for many yrs now. So I have gotten back to my B12 and chiro appt tomoro, hoping it will help. I found this article very informative, sent it to my uncle who suffers very much from this and have sent him this to read. Thanks!

  31. Hello
    I started with tinnitus about 16 months ago, I have no idea why I got this. However I have being suffering from constant headaches, lower, upper and neck pain for several years now. I already visit several doctors, ENT, Neurologists, Physioterapy, Chiropractors etc. I also did MRI, Cat Scan, Xrays, contrast xrays you named and everything negative. I do started studying very heavy and 6,7 hours a day in the computer. At this point I dont know what else to do and sometimes think about suicide. If anyone can help me please send me a note, i did look for a specialist in upper cervical but cannot find anyone in my are. South Florida
    thank to all
    Hernandez

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Do You Have Meniere’s Disease? « St Louis Chiropractor – Dr. Adam Tanase - 03/04/2010

    [...] time span. They suffered from symptoms like fullness of the ear, fluctuating hearing, vertigo, and tinnitus. Among this group of participants, 233 of them were found to have a problem within their upper [...]

  2. Ringing in the ears? Check the neck – Suffering From Whiplash? - 04/14/2014

    […] adapted from: http://drtanase.com/2009/03/17/tinnitus-check-the-neck/ […]

  3. Stop the Ringing! Tinnitus and Chiropractic Care - 05/22/2014

    […] Story Credit, Image Credit: Ear by Simon James. Used under Creative Commons license. […]

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