Vitamin B12 is found in the foods you eat. Normally, the protein is absorbed in the gut to be used by the body. However, if you have a ringing in your ear, there may be a problem.
Ringing in the ear(s) is known as tinnitus. The sound has otherwise been described as buzzing, whooping, humming, hissing, throbbing, music or singing.
It’s possible to hear these noises in one or both ears, which may come and go.
Tinnitus could be a neurological symptom of pernicious anaemia – an autoimmune condition that prevents a person from absorbing vitamin B12 from their diet.
The Pernicious Anaemia Society explained people with the autoimmune condition don’t have the necessary protein (intrinsic factor) to absorb vitamin B12.
Intrinsic factor is made from the parietal cells found in the lining of the stomach.
The parietal cells also create hydrochloric acid, which enables B12 to be released from food while the intrinsic factor enables absorption.
When the body produces antibodies that attack the parietal cells, intrinsic factor and hydrochloric acid isn’t readily available.
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It’s important to note that symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can develop over many years.
In addition, the symptoms can vary from person to person, with some people experiencing a lot while others only experience less than a handful.
As noted above, tinnitus is one example of a neurological symptom of pernicious anaemia – meaning you have difficulty absorbing B12.
Another neurological clue could be pins and needles in the extremities of your body.
This may be paired with vertigo – the feeling that everything around you is spinning, and puts you off balance.
There could be behavioural changes too, such as loss of libido or sudden mood swings.
There could be physical signs, such as ulcers in the mouth or a swollen “beefy” and cracked tongue.
Perhaps your nails have become brittle and flaky? Is your skin dry? Do you have other autoimmune conditions?
It’s very common for people with pernicious anaemia to have type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
A simple blood test at the doctor’s surgery can identify antibodies for intrinsic factor.
The blood test can also pick up on whether or not you have malformed red blood cells and the level of vitamin B12 in the blood.
If you’re concerned you may have trouble absorbing B12, do discuss your symptoms with your doctor.