The Sound That Could Follow You to Your Grave

His $11 billion franchise all started with a blueprint scrawled on a napkin...

After being shot down more than 80 times, Wayne Kent Taylor finally won over investors. Three doctors from Kentucky agreed to plunk down the $300,000 for Kent to build the restaurant of his dreams.

As for how he won them over, he had his dream restaurant's design laid out on a cocktail napkin. And in February 1993, Taylor's first Texas Roadhouse restaurant opened its doors for business in Indiana. It went on to become the largest steakhouse chain in the country.

Nearly three decades later, the 65-year-old brown-cowboy-hat-wearing founder and CEO was still enthusiastically running his restaurant chain that spanned more than 600 locations. According to the New York Times, he'd still oversee decisions about what went on the menu and walls, as well as what would play on the jukebox.

But it all ended on March 18, 2021: Taylor was found dead near his Louisville, Kentucky home having killed himself.

He had long been battling post-COVID-19 symptoms. And one of them was so severe that he could barely focus on a task, let alone read. He barely got any sleep, often logging just two hours a night for months.

Taylor's tormentor was a condition that afflicts millions of adults in the U.S...

Tinnitus is a disorder that's characterized by constant ringing or other sounds in the ears.

For about 30 million Americans, that clanging in the ears becomes a regular phenomenon... But up to 2% of folks suffer from severe tinnitus like Taylor.

Over the long term, tinnitus leads to sleep deprivation, poor concentration, and reduced hearing. Anxiety, depression, and headaches can also occur over time. These issues also have a habit of compounding and leading to other issues like irritability, daytime fatigue, and memory problems.

Tinnitus sufferers might hear one or more of these sounds:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Hissing
  • Clicking
  • Whooshing
  • Humming

The sounds may be high- or low-pitched and can occur in one or both ears.

Subjective tinnitus, where only you can hear sounds but no one else, is the most common type. Pulsatile tinnitus is when you hear a roaring and rushing sound from the blood vessels near your ear. The sound seems to beat in time with your heart. This form of tinnitus may arise from plaque buildup in your arteries or too much pressure around your brain. Objective tinnitus is a rare type where both you and someone nearby can hear the sound happening inside your ear. Another rare form is musical tinnitus, where you hear familiar songs over and over.

About 10% of American adults have had tinnitus lasting for at least five minutes in the past year. As many as 50 million Americans have likely experienced tinnitus at some point in their life. And your chances of developing tinnitus increase as you age.

Some common triggers for this debilitating condition include:

  • Being exposed to loud noises
  • Hearing loss that comes with age
  • Viral illnesses, infections, or injuries that affect certain nerves
  • Circulatory-system problems like high blood pressure
  • Medications (like certain anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ("NSAIDs"), and hypertension drugs)

On average, an episode of tinnitus can last from 16 hours to 48 hours. But most new cases can take as long as six months to 12 months to resolve. And unfortunately, for some, tinnitus is permanent.

We don't understand exactly how or why tinnitus begins. For years, we thought that the brain tries to make up for hearing loss by increasing its activity in the form of these sounds. But that doesn't explain how some folks with tinnitus still have normal hearing.

Scientists think that tinnitus could have its origins in a problem with the auditory nerve that connect the sensory hair cells in the ears to the brain. A 2023 study from Mass Eye and Ear gathered 300 folks who took a hearing test and scored as having normal hearing. Researchers found that compared with the participants who didn't have tinnitus, the chronic (lasting more than six months) tinnitus sufferers were more likely to have damaged auditory nerves. Muscles in the ear also responded weakly to sounds. And nerves of the brainstem showed a flurry of activity in the chronic tinnitus group.

Unfortunately, there's no definitive cure for tinnitus. But you can reduce your risk of tinnitus by protecting your ears from loud sounds... like the 14,000-plus fireworks displays that will happen in two days across America.

Fireworks can give off sound greater than 150 decibels – more than that of a jet engine of an airplane or a police or ambulance siren. So carrying around and wearing earplugs if you plan on being around loud noises is the easiest solution. They're an inexpensive, pocket- and wallet-friendly solution.

Other possible treatments depend on the underlying cause of your tinnitus. For example, if you have a sinus infection causing tinnitus, clearing the infection can help.

There's also some evidence that taking a magnesium supplement may help people who already have moderate to severe tinnitus. One belief is that people with tinnitus don't have enough magnesium in their bodies.

Three of my top foods to help you increase your magnesium intake are nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.

A handful of almonds has 76 mg of magnesium, a quarter of a cup of pumpkin seeds has 190 mg, and a cup of cooked spinach has 157 mg. Green vegetables are green because of chlorophyll... in the center of the chlorophyll molecule sits magnesium.

So if you're worried about tinnitus, or already have it, try upping the magnesium in your diet. A healthy intake of magnesium is about 320 mg a day for women, while men need about 420 mg.

Oh, and don't forget to turn down the volume on your headphones.

P.S. Tinnitus isn't the only threat to catching enough z's... The problem can be seasonal. Check out my recent issue of Retirement Millionaire for my tips on how to improve your summer-sleep hygiene (more details here if you aren't a subscriber).

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 2, 2024