This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Tinnitus and Heavy Metals: Some ailments have many root causes, leaving individuals frequently feeling hopeless regarding diagnosis and treatment. One such illness that affects over 50 million Americans is tinnitus. Today we explore the link between tinnitus and heavy metal toxicity and why detox may be the cure for this debilitating disease.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no actual noise present. It can present itself as a perceived buzzing, swooshing, clicking, hissing, humming, drumming, or whistling noise. Tinnitus can be a temporary or long-term problem, but both presentations are debilitating to quality of life.1 This is especially true because tinnitus symptoms often accompany other ailments like chronic pain, depression, and anxiety.2
Possible causes of tinnitus vary and include age-related hearing loss, exposure to the trauma of loud noises, ear wax blockages, ear bone changes, Meniere’s disease, TMJ disorder, head and neck injuries, acoustic neuroma, and heavy metal toxicity.3
Diagnosis of the cause of tinnitus can be made using three main methods:
- A hearing (audiological) exam: whereby specific sounds will be played to you in a soundproof room, and you will indicate when you hear the sounds. The results comparing the played sounds and perceived sounds are then compared to average statistics for your age group.
- Imaging tests: depending on the suspected cause of tinnitus, imaging tests like CT or MRI scans can help detect it.
- Movement tests: by following prompts to move your eyes, neck, arms, and legs or to clench your jaw, physicians may be able to isolate the reason causing the noises.
In many cases, however, the root cause of tinnitus is never found. Although the cause is often unknown to physicians, the symptoms remain very real for the nearly 15% of the general public (over 50 million Americans!) that experience some form of tinnitus.4
Tinnitus and Heavy Metals
Although the latest science draws a strong connection between heavy metals and tinnitus, most of the well-known mass-produced medical literature and self-help websites do not reflect this new knowledge. Websites highlight a high percentage of ‘unknown causes’ without mentioning the link between the illness and heavy metal toxicity.
It is unsurprising considering how little we understand heavy metal toxicity. Since metals hide away in fatty cells and tissues like the brain, most blood tests do not accurately reflect someone’s toxic load.5 Making the connection between tinnitus and heavy metals requires the know-how to challenge out metals and safely and effectively remove heavy metals from the body to heal tinnitus symptoms. Unfortunately, this is uncommon in mainstream medical science.
A 2016 meta-study explored the 49 available studies exploring the link between auditory illnesses and heavy metal toxicity. Some metals, like cadmium, suggest a strong association. Others with weaker science, like arsenic, lead, and mercury, offered a lesser clear interaction between heavy metals and noise. Nevertheless, the authors suggest that “audiologists and other hearing health care professionals should be aware of the possible auditory effects of heavy metals.”6
A new 2020 study outlines how elevated levels of manganese, cadmium, chromium, and selenium may cause subjective tinnitus. Authors conclude that supplementing or reducing these heavy metal elements “could be considered novel therapeutic goals” for treating tinnitus.7
Proper hearing relies on neural communication and the transmission of hormones like dopamine and serotonin between neurons. Since heavy metals are neurotoxins that interfere with nerve endings, this toxicity may lead to tinnitus symptoms.2
Most Detox Strategies Don’t Work
Detox culture caters to those who want to get healthier by reducing their toxic load. Unfortunately, many of these trends do not address the root cause of the problem and can often do more harm than good.
A liver cleanse can provide some powerful herbs and spices to help reduce liver inflammation. Milk Thistle, for example, has been heavily studied in liver health and provides some profound support for liver function. Since the liver function is a player in the body’s detox pathway, this can give the liver gentle support. However, it does not address all the upstream pathways operating correctly for the toxins to exit the body safely.
A colon cleanse often promotes the consumption of high fiber and binding ingredients like flax, psyllium, and chia to help “unclog” the gunk that may build up in the colon over time. Colon cleanses also often have a flushing component, using water, salt, or enemas to help push out debris.
Although this may provide short-term relief from bloating and constipation, they do not address toxins built up in fatty cells and tissues like the brain. Clearing out the colon does not get even close to the root of the problem of cellular toxicity.
Foot detoxes come in s a few different forms. One involves soaking your feet in a bath, also known as ionic cleansing, that uses an electric current that runs through a saline solution giving it a positive charge. By immersing your feet in the solution, this positive charge draws negatively charged toxins out of your feet, binding to toxins like heavy metals.
Whether you believe them or not, the problem with foot detoxing is that they (at best) would only draw out impurities that are free-flowing in the blood.
Since toxins accumulate in the body over decades, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when they are in the blood. Over time, the body stores away these toxins in our fatty cells and tissues to protect the body. Of course, this only works to protect us up to a point when the proverbial bucket is too full and begins to overflow.
Juice detoxes are among the most popular methods of mainstream detoxing and can wreak havoc on the body for various reasons. A juice cleanse may give the body less digestive burden and caloric deprivation, which, like a colon cleanses, may lead to less bloating and weight loss in the short run. Although these two results suggest a successful detox, they do not address the root of cellular toxicity.
Upon taking a closer look, some of the problems with a juice cleanse include the following:
- Hardcore caloric deprivation can be too stressful for someone with significant toxicity symptoms. Fasting must be implemented mindfully and ensure the body is adequately prepared to undergo the stress of a fast.
- Juice fasting does not reap the benefits of water fasting because the body is regularly pumped with pure sugar. Whether your juices are higher (fruit) or lower (green vegetables) in sugar: all juices are pure. This leads to dramatic blood sugar swings, no ketosis, and interferes with cellular-cleansing mechanisms like autophagy during a water fast or a fasting-mimicking diet.
- They do not target the stored toxins found in fatty cells, accumulated over time to protect the body. Juice fasting is an extremely surface-level detox conceptually, which isn’t even detoxing much at all due to the constant sugar dumping into the system.
Although these popular detox strategies may play a supporting role in mitigating surface-level symptoms, they are too far downstream from the main problem to make any significant impact. Many people accumulate toxins over the decades, so you cannot expect to safely or effectively get rid of them in a 30-minute foot soak or a seven days juice fast.
The over-arching problem with all these ‘detoxes’ is that they don’t address the whole body or target the root of the problem: cellular dysfunction caused by toxic overload.
How to address cellular toxicity?
Safe cell detoxification of chemicals and heavy metals is vital if you want to achieve healthy cellular function.
Tinnitus is an illness that affects individuals’ auditory systems, generating sounds that are not actually there. This debilitating symptom often accompanies chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. Since many people don’t get the root cause of their symptoms discovered, it can lead to symptom suppression and pain management instead of truly addressing and solving the issue. The latest research suggests that heavy metals may be the root cause of tinnitus for many people. This encouraging new science means that engaging in an effective and safe heavy metals detox protocol may be able to resolve an array of health issues, including tinnitus.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based on the opinions of The Cell Health team. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information from the research and experience of the Cell Health team. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD, for the accuracy of the information provided. Still, we encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
- Baguley, David, et al. “Tinnitus.” The Lancet, vol. 382, no. 9904, 2013, pp. 1600–1607., doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(13)60142-7.
- Hearing Review. “Neuroscientists Identify Brain Mechanism Responsible for Tinnitus…” Hearing Review, 14 Oct. 2015, www.hearingreview.com/inside-hearing/research/neuroscientists-identify-brain-mechanism-responsible-tinnitus-chronic-pain.
- “Tinnitus.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Mar. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156.
- “Understanding the Facts.” American Tinnitus Association, 12 Feb. 2020, www.ata.org/understanding-facts.
- Agnihotri, Sandeep Kumar, and Kavindra Kumar Kesari. “Mechanistic Effect of Heavy Metals in Neurological Disorder and Brain Cancer.” Networking of Mutagens in Environmental Toxicology Environmental Science and Engineering, 2019, pp. 25–47., doi:10.1007/978-3-319-96511-6_2.
- Castellanos, Marie-Josée, and Adrian Fuente. “The Adverse Effects of Heavy Metals with and without Noise Exposure on the Human Peripheral and Central Auditory System: A Literature Review.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 13,12 1223. 9 Dec. 2016, doi:10.3390/ijerph13121223
- Atila, Nihal Efe, et al. “The Role of Manganese, Cadmium, Chromium, and Selenium on Subjective Tinnitus.” Biological Trace Element Research, 2020, doi:10.1007/s12011-020-02420-4.