by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady wrote,
I was recently chatting with a man about his tinnitus. He has suffered with severe ringing in his ears for over 15 years. About three months ago, he was in the hospital for surgery. They noticed his potassium and magnesium levels were very low and started him on both liquid forms of each. He mentioned after about four days, all the ringing in his ears has stopped and has not returned. Interesting after 15 years of having it. Any thoughts?
Too much Potassium can cause tinnitus as I pointed out in my article “Potassium Gluconate and Hearing Loss”, (1) but maybe too little can also do the same.
On the other hand, many/most Americans are low on magnesium according to what I have read in various places. We need magnesium. It helps protect our ears from noise damage and other ear problems.
As Barry Keate (2) explains, “Magnesium also protects the nerves in the inner ear and is a powerful glutamate inhibitor. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter, produced by the action of sound waves on the hair cells of the inner ear. The unregulated production of glutamate at sound frequencies for which there is no external stimulation is the cause of tinnitus.”
“The protective effect of magnesium in preventing noise-induced hearing loss has been studied since it was found that magnesium in inner ear fluid decreases significantly after intense noise exposure. The results of one placebo controlled study showed that subjects who took oral magnesium supplements displayed a significantly lower incidence of noise-induced hearing loss compared to the control group. In 1998 a highly motivated patient elected to undergo a catheter-delivered infusion of magnesium sulfate to the round window (of the inner ear). Within 60 seconds of the infusion she experienced complete resolution of her tinnitus. This effect lasted until the flow of medication was discontinued 48 hours later.” (2)
Thus I can readily see that if he was low on magnesium, it could have certainly been linked to his tinnitus.
It’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate magnesium intake. But don’t overdose on it. And remember to keep this mineral in proper balance. For example, if you take extra magnesium, you also should be taking calcium at the same rate (the correct ratio is 1:1 calcium to magnesium). Note that almost all supplement formulations have a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium (this is not good for your health). At the same time, you also need to take Vitamin D3 so your body will properly utilize the calcium and magnesium. Furthermore, if you take higher doses of Vitamin D3, you should take Vitamin K2 so you don’t end up with harmful side effects from taking high doses of Vitamin D3.
Dr. Mercola recently wrote, “Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D, as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency is very common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.” (3) So is magnesium glycinate.
As you can see, the trick is to take all vitamins and minerals in the proper ratio so you keep your body’s chemistry in balance, thus giving you optimal health.
If you want to learn more about tinnitus, the many things that can trigger tinnitus, or more about a number of things you can do to help bring your tinnitus under control, check out my book, When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How.
(1) Bauman, Neil. 2009. Potassium Gluconate and Hearing Loss.
(2) Keate, Barry. 2013? Magnesium, Your Health and Tinnitus.
(3) Mercola, Dr. Joseph. 2015. Foods and Other Lifestyle Factors That Will Shorten Your Lifespan.