Headaches, Tinnitus & Hearing Loss

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Anyone who suffers from migraine headaches knows just how debilitating they are. Migraine is much more than just head pain. While the headache itself is extreme, it is paired with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound and light, dizziness, blurred vision, and a host of other physical symptoms. An attack can last anywhere from four hours to three days and may come as frequently as three times per month. Those with chronic migraine may suffer up to fifteen days per month.

A major difference between a migraine and a normal headache is that migraine is debilitating. A person suffering from migraine cannot take some Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen and go about their business. People with migraines miss school or work on days when it occurs.

Who Suffers From Migraine?

Migraine disproportionately affects some groups more than others. Over 80% of migraine sufferers are women. A family history of migraine indicates a higher risk, as well. Those with depression, anxiety, and sleep problems also have it more frequently, as do Medicaid recipients under the age of 65, those with low or poverty-level income, and the unemployed.

While these statistics suggest that stress plays a strong role in suffering from migraine, there does not seem to be a “hard and fast” rule about where migraine comes from. It also seems to be the case that changes in hormonal levels (eg, taking testosterone supplements or going through menopause) can cause migraine.

Migraine is the most common neurological disease in the world and the third most common illness of any kind. In the U.S., about 39 million people have migraines. Worldwide, there are as many as 1 billion sufferers. Researchers indicate that these numbers may be low, as many cases of migraine are undiagnosed.

Migraine in Children

About 1 in 10 children—and 3 in 10 teenagers—get migraines. Migraine affects pre-pubescent boys more than girls, but after puberty, it becomes more common in girls. Girls tend to have more severe attacks than boys.

Migraine seems to be heritable. If one parent suffers from migraine, a child’s risk is 50%. If both parents suffer from it, the risk increases to 75%. About half of people who suffer from migraine had their first attack before age 12.

A Potential Link To Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

A study published this month in the journal Otology & Neurotology has identified a potential link between migraine headaches, hearing loss and tinnitus. The study looked at survey research from 1999–2004. The study relied on respondents’ subjective assessments of whether they have hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Researchers found a strong correlation between migraine, hearing loss, tinnitus, and neck pain. It is too early to say whether migraine causes hearing loss and tinnitus, as this is the first study into the subject. A very early hypothesis is that vasoconstriction present with migraine may contribute to the death of stereocilia in the inner ear.

Treatment for Migraine, Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Unfortunately, there is no reliable cure for migraine, hearing loss, or tinnitus. Some evidence suggests that the severity and frequency of migraine can be reduced by:

  • Regular, restful sleep
  • A healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Stress management

Incidentally, some of these habits also positively affect outcomes related to hearing loss and/or tinnitus. A healthy diet, for example, has shown promising effects in terms of preventing the onset of age-related hearing loss. One study found that those who strictly followed an anti-inflammatory diet—such as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) or the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED)—were significantly less likely to experience any hearing loss over four years, compared to those who ate a typical American diet. Exercise and maintaining a healthy relationship to stress have also been shown to have positive effects on the maintenance of our hearing ability as we age.

The most effective treatment for tinnitus, for most people, tends to be “masking.” This simply involves introducing some sound into your environment to cover up the sound of your tinnitus. Anything from a box fan to a CD of nature sounds can fit the bill.

Hearing Aids Can Help

If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids are the best and most common treatment available. Hearing aids today can do wonders to increase the intelligibility of speech and another environmental sound. Many hearing aids also include built-in masking tones to help with tinnitus.

If you or a loved one is suffering from hearing loss and/or tinnitus, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what treatment can do to improve your health and well-being!