The sauna has many health benefits- from increased endurance and improved quality of sleep to acne prevention. Is going to the sauna good for your tinnitus?
While sauna use can’t directly heal underlying conditions that cause tinnitus, it can improve their symptoms. The sauna is good for tinnitus because it dilates blood vessels to improve circulation and relaxes the muscular system in 15 minutes. Choose an infrared sauna at 125 ˚F and use white noise to combat pulsatile tinnitus.
Continue reading to discover if the sauna can help get rid of tinnitus and the best practices to do so.
What is tinnitus
It’s unknown what exactly causes tinnitus, but it appears to involve an interaction between brain and auditory nerves. The triggering mechanism could be anything from earwax buildup to head trauma or even blood circulatory problems.
Tinnitus is the perception of sound in one or both ears when no external sound is present. Tinnitus can be constant, intermittent, or pulsatile (a series of rhythmic pulses). It’s more common in males, impacts a little over 17% of the population, and is usually a symptom of an underlying ailment.
The most effective treatment for tinnitus is a combination of remedies that include heat, medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and lifestyle changes like staying hydrated and getting enough sleep.
Can the sauna be good for tinnitus? Let’s take a closer look at this question.
Can the sauna help get rid of tinnitus?
In a 2002 study, sauna exposure was shown to dilate blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure. Infrared heat has the ability to lower high cortisol levels that cause tinnitus by 25%. It can also relax our skeletal muscular system (including middle ear canals) in just 15 minutes.
Statistically speaking, tinnitus affects more men than women, and using the sauna 4-7x a week increases a man’s life expectancy by 18%. This is proof that the positive effects of continuous sauna bathing can be experienced 15 minutes into a session and up to 20 years after.
Whether your tinnitus is caused by clenching your jaw or simple old age, the numerous biochemical and physiological benefits a sauna provides can help alleviate your pain.
Quick Tip: Always consult an ENT specialist to diagnose any underlying conditions related to tinnitus.
How heat affects tinnitus
Remember that heat expands. This is important when delving into how high temperatures can impact tinnitus.
Blood circulatory blockage is one of the main causes of tinnitus. Heat is able to expand blood vessels leading into the middle ear and relieve the tension that causes ringing noises.
Additionally, heat relaxes our muscles and increases circulation. These are big players in combating the feeling of tinnitus- especially for someone that has TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction).
Although the sauna has shown to be effective for tinnitus- it should not be considered an alternative option to proper medical treatment. If you’ve exhausted all remedies and still are experiencing severe episodes of tinnitus, reach out to your physician for a proper diagnosis.
How humidity affects tinnitus
Contrary to the effects of heat on tinnitus, high humidity levels can be particularly detrimental. Some of the most effective treatments for tinnitus are combined with low humidity levels- especially hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
A 2017 study detailing the impact of heat and humidity on Ménière’s Disease (tinnitus is a symptom) showed that humidity higher than 90% was associated with increased odds of an individual experiencing tinnitus.
For this reason, those with tinnitus should avoid steam rooms and opt for traditional saunas with lower humidity or infrared saunas with no humidity at all.
Could the sauna prevent tinnitus from getting worse?
It’s important to note that tinnitus is actually a symptom or side effect of something else. You must address the ailment itself to receive long-term relief.
Saunas can help alleviate the ringing or buzzing noises, known as tinnitus, but may not be able to prevent the underlying cause from getting worse. Conditions that may be causing tinnitus include:
- Nervous system damage
- High blood pressure
- Migraine headaches
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Inner ear disorders like vestibular schwannoma
Old age or exposure to high volume for extended periods of time can also result in tinnitus symptoms. Taking care of your health, in general, can limit age-related illness, but no amount of sauna use can prevent ear damage from getting worse if the stressors are still relevant.
If high blood pressure is your problem- using the sauna as instructed by your doctor can help lower blood pressure and may eliminate tinnitus altogether.
Is the sauna a proven treatment for tinnitus?
While there is still limited scientific data to connect the dots between sauna exposure and tinnitus relief, there have been real-life positive feedback.
A person suffering from tinnitus stated, “Mine got really low after the sauna yesterday. I was in there for about 20 minutes and literally went quiet.” That would indicate that what’s causing the symptoms can be improved by sauna use.
One thing the sauna may help you do is to identify the hidden cause. If symptoms improve during or after stepping into the sauna, that could point to migraines, jaw clenching, middle ear muscle spasms, or blood circulatory issues.
How to use the sauna to help ringing tinnitus
Ringing tinnitus is not always the sign of a hidden disease. Oftentimes, ringing noises are directly correlated to loud sounds, head or neck injuries, teeth grinding, or excessive ear wax.
If you’re suffering from ringing tinnitus, follow these practices:
- Use an infrared sauna.
- Turn the temperature up to at least 125 ˚F.
- Spend at least 15 minutes inside.
- Incorporate breathwork, meditation, and stretching.
- Play calming music.
Remember that an infrared sauna heats our bodies from the inside out; therefore, a higher temperature than 125 ˚F isn’t required to get the best relief. Spending 15 minutes inside allows for optimal muscle relaxation that combats head/neck injuries and teeth grinding.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate- before and after stepping in the sauna. Dehydration causes headaches by lowering oxygen and blood supply to the brain.
Breathwork and meditation can help lower your heart rate and calm your central nervous system. If you’re able- close your eyes and perform the 4/4/4 breathwork exercise: 4-seconds to inhale, 4-seconds to hold your breath, and 4-seconds to exhale.
Lastly, stretching will alleviate muscle tension and promote circulation, while calming music will further deepen the relaxation state necessary to reduce cortisol production.
How to use the sauna to help pulsatile tinnitus
Pulsatile tinnitus is exactly what it sounds like- a rhythmic or pulsating pounding noise inside your ear. It is most commonly caused by blood circulatory issues around the ear canal or artery damage.
Inflammation or accumulation of fluid in the middle ear can also cause this type of tinnitus.
If you’re suffering from pulsatile tinnitus, follow these practices:
- Use an infrared sauna.
- Set the temperature to at least 125˚F.
- Spend up to 30 minutes inside.
- Hydrate (a little extra).
- Incorporate a wearable sound generator with white noise.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine intake.
Pulsatile tinnitus is most directly a result of circulation issues, so it’s important to turn up the heat. The longer you stay inside, the more you will benefit from remediation and the dilation of blood vessels.
Because you’re spending more time inside, be sure to hydrate a little bit more. Additionally, white noise can reduce the annoying pounding sound.
It’s especially important to limit caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco products during this time. They can cause blood vessels to constrict, and this can block proper circulation.
If you’re looking for a natural way to improve symptoms of tinnitus, the sauna is an excellent option.
Look for infrared saunas that emit heat at 125 ˚F and sound machines if your tinnitus has any pulsating qualities (such as ringing).
These therapies are recommended by experts because they’ll help dilate blood vessels and relax muscles in just 15 minutes.
So, is the sauna good for tinnitus? Absolutely.