If you experience a persistent buzzing or ringing in the ears, you may have tinnitus. According to the American Tinnitus Association, about one out of five people suffers from tinnitus. The condition can worsen with age and, while annoying, is not itself serious. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease itself. Though adequate potassium intake is important for good health, potassium deficiency is not one of the known causes of tinnitus, and potassium is not a treatment for the problem.
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Tinnitus may be either objective or subjective. Other people, such as your doctor, can hear objective tinnitus. This form is rare, caused by blood vessel abnormalities. Most tinnitus is subjective, heard only by the patient. Age, allergies, infection, injury, hearing loss, exposure to loud noises and buildup of earwax can cause tinnitus. Taking large doses of aspirin can cause tinnitus, and tinnitus is a side effect of some drugs, including quinine, antibiotics such as erythromycin and diuretics. High blood pressure and stress can also produce tinnitus. Doctors seek to treat the underlying cause of tinnitus when they can identify one but, in some cases, no one can determine the reason for tinnitus. In that case, doctors focus on treating the tinnitus itself.
Potassium regulates the fluid content of cells, helps balance electrolytes and plays a role in metabolizing carbohydrates. Potassium also helps regulate blood pressure. People who eat a lot of potassium in their diet tend to have lower blood pressures than those whose diets lack potassium-rich foods. Loss of fluids through vomiting, excessive sweating or taking diuretic drugs can result in a potassium deficiency. Cramps and weakness may be the first sign of potassium deficiency. Sports drinks often contain potassium to help replace the mineral when it's lost through sweating. You can also get potassium from fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans.
Potassium and Tinnitus
High blood pressure sometimes causes tinnitus. To treat your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe potassium. As your blood pressure lowers, your tinnitus may disappear. But potassium by itself won't alleviate all forms of tinnitus, since many of these causes aren't linked to blood pressure. Taking diurectics can also cause tinnitus. These drugs also deplete your body of potassium and your doctor may advise you to eat more potassium-rich foods while you're taking them, but no study has linked a lack of dietary potassium with tinnitus. While you should never take a potassium supplement without your doctor's knowledge, eating a diet rich in potassium-containing fruits and vegetables can improve your health and lower your risk of many diseases. If you have tinnitus and you want to try treating it by eating more bananas, oranges, raisins and spinach, you may not cure your tinnitus, but your overall health might improve.
When treating the underlying cause of your tinnitus doesn't work, or when the doctor can't identify a cause, your doctor may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication such as alprazolam, or an antidepressant, such as amitriptyline. These drugs successfully reduce tinnitus symptoms for some people, but not everyone. Other people find that masking the ringing with white noise helps. Tinnitus retraining seeks to train your brain not to pay attention to the noise. During retraining, you wear a device that emits musical tones, which masks the tinnitus and helps your brain learn to ignore the noise.