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by Mary Martin(more info)

listed in reflexology, originally published in issue 123 - May 2006

Tinnitus can drive people to distraction – preventing one in 200 of them from living normal lives, whereas one in five is occasionally affected. At worst it can lead to insomnia and depression. It commonly affects men and women but also some children – from complications of secretory otitis media, (glue ear), for example.


Sounds are experienced in either one or both ears or the head. These take the form of whistling, ringing, hissing, buzzing or roaring. They can be pitched at any level and are either intermittent or constant. Stress increases the symptoms. Tinnitus may go hand in hand with deafness.

Some Causes and Risks

• Exposure to prolonged loud noise in the workplace e.g. working with pneumatic drills. Musicians and iPod users are at risk;
• Ear infections or inflammation;
• Menière's disease;
• High doses of drugs – particularly aspirin, quinine and some antibiotics;
• Otosclerosis – the bones of the middle ear become stiff; eventually they stop conducting sound to the inner ear;
• Impacted wax;
• Disorders of blood vessels – especially in the head;
• Stress-related.


Anyone with tinnitus should consult an ENT specialist as soon as possible, to investigate the cause. Where there is no effective treatment, a masking device is suggested. This is similar to a small hearing aid. It emits a noise that is meant to distract attention from the tinnitus, but they do not suit everyone.

Case Studies

This 43 year-old woman suffered from tinnitus for seven years and consulted several private doctors. Tests proved negative. None of them could help her because it was 'due to stress'. What a pity! Francesca endured seven years of misery because of such negative attitudes.

During her first consultation with me it was obvious that Francesca was a highly anxious woman. Occasionally she experienced panic attacks. Tinnitus became apparent soon after the birth of her child. She doted on him and was overprotective.

The condition had got progressively worse, and when I saw her she had little respite from it. This was usually when she felt relaxed – on holiday and when her son was with her, rather than at school.

I advised her that the noise could change – either in tone or pitch. She should regard this as positive sign. In the period of two weekly treatments she was free of tinnitus. Following her third treatment she awoke to a slight ringing in the ears that ceased within the day. This also occurred after her fourth treatment. From her sixth treatment she was free of tinnitus or panic attacks. Less frequent treatments were then given to maintain this level of health.

For several years Francesca had also experienced PMT. Owing to the holistic nature of reflexology this problem was also alleviated. The changes in her were good to see – relaxed, more philosophical and much happier. This had a good effect on her family too.

At 22 years-old Anthony experienced tinnitus as a high-pitched noise for three months. It was particularly noticeable at night and his sleep was badly disturbed. He was beginning to feel depressed. Medical tests proved negative. The likely cause was the stress of a broken relationship.

From his second treatment the noise retreated somewhat and he slept better. He could barely hear it in his left ear – previously both ears were affected. It took five weekly treatments before the sound retreated altogether. By this time Anthony was far more relaxed and philosophical about his situation, and looking forward to a holiday.


Both patients responded well because reflexology relieved the underlying cause – stress. They also had time to discuss their problems. This is a vital part of the therapeutic process. Most doctors have lost the art of listening to their patients or fail to appreciate its therapeutic value.

Ways of Coping.

It requires courage to go through life with constant tinnitus. Some years ago I treated an elderly actress who, at the time, was a popular character in a TV series. She said that she was plagued by constant tinnitus since childhood, due to perforated eardrums. I admired her fortitude – considering she had spent her adult life acting in the theatre or on TV.

There are no outward signs of the misery tinnitus causes or the difficulties of overcoming it. Many people immerse themselves in their work or some kind of hobby – that can be stressful. Reflexology de-stresses people. Central to this therapy is a good therapeutic relationship. It provides care and encouragement and promotes self-empowerment. A positive emotional state brings a greater sense of wellbeing and enhances the ability to cope with this condition.


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About Mary Martin

A qualified teacher, Mary Martin established her School of Reflexology in 1987. She founded the Association of Reflexologists in 1984 and is an Honorary Life Member. Previously she practised as a Gerson therapist. Mary belongs to a network of therapists attached to the cancer centre at Mount Vernon Hospital. She has had a busy practice in Ruislip since 1983. She may be contacted on Tel: 01895 635621;

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