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Trouble with Tinnitus Raises Risk of Suicide

In a Stockholm cohort, women who had trouble with tinnitus were 15 to 30 percent more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide.

Tinnitus (pronounced either TIN-ittis or tin-EYE-tuss)  is a condition in which the victim hears sounds that others cannot perceive. Sufferers describe these noises as chirping, humming, hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing. The trouble with tinnitus is that it is very challenging to treat.

Musician Tries Pineapple to Treat the Trouble with Tinnitus:

Q. Three years ago, I had constant tinnitus. As a professional musician, I found the ringing in my ears quite annoying. An examination found no cause for it, and the doctor didn’t have any solutions for me.

I searched reliable websites such as the American Tinnitus Association and found some foods listed that might possibly help. One of them was pineapple. Since I like it, I gave it a try.

After about five days, my tinnitus was gone, and it has not returned so long as I drink pineapple juice daily. If I don’t have any pineapple for a prolonged time, the tinnitus starts to come back. Fortunately, it goes away as soon as I return to a daily serving. Now I make sure to always have it on hand.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience. We used a different search strategy, combing the National Library of Medicine (PubMed) for medical studies, and found none. The American Tinnitus Association may have changed its website since you searched, because we found no mention of pineapple there, either.

Consequently, we don’t know if eating pineapple, drinking its juice or taking bromelain tablets derived from pineapple will help other tinnitus victims. On the other hand, pineapple is a tasty food and will do no harm. If someone else tries this approach, we will be interested in the results. That could be especially important since tinnitus can have such devastating effects on the victims’ mental health.

Trouble with Tinnitus Linked to Suicide Attempts in Women:

A new study from Sweden analyzed data on over 71,000 people living in Stockholm. Women with tinnitus were 15 percent more likely than those with no symptoms to consider or attempt suicide (JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, online May 2, 2019). Those with severe symptoms were twice as likely to attempt suicide as those with a mild condition.

Oddly, people who had a formal diagnosis of tinnitus were not at increased risk of suicide. However, doctors had diagnosed only one in five people with such symptoms as having tinnitus. Moreover, men with tinnitus were no more likely than those without the condition to try to kill themselves. The researchers suggest that doctors should pay more attention to helping people, especially women, having trouble with tinnitus manage their discomfort from this invisible condition.

They conclude:

“Furthermore, additional research is needed to understand the pathophysiological differences between men and women with tinnitus.”

What Can You Do About Tinnitus?

Sometimes people with tinnitus try to mask the sound with white noise generated by a machine. This may help ease trouble with tinnitus temporarily, but research suggests that over the long run it does more harm than good. Some scientists believe that the most promising approach is to retrain the brain so that it no longer creates or perceives noises that aren’t objectively present in the environment. Several years ago, we discussed such an approach with scientists investigating a device to assist in such retraining. You may wish to listen to Show 808: New Approaches to Treating Tinnitus (Archive).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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  • Lugo A et al, " Sex-specific association of tinnitus with suicide attempts." JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, online May 2, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.0566
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