Living With Tinnitus

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Patient with tinnitus talking to their doctor

When you first noticed that ringing in your ears, you probably tried to find the source of the sound. You may have even walked around the house a bit, stopping at each room to listen intently, none the wiser. Eventually, it goes away, but when it comes back again, you may even find yourself asking other people if they hear it.

By then it should have dawned on you that you’re the only one hearing it since no one else can hear it, and there’s no source. This is tinnitus, and it can feel like your brain is playing tricks on you. That’s partially right, but tinnitus can indicate an underlying condition.

"Treble Health is a beacon of hope - they helped me to significantly reduce my tinnitus volume and awareness within just a few short months."
"Treble Health is a beacon of hope - they helped me to significantly reduce my tinnitus volume and awareness within just a few short months."
– Melinda
Schedule a free consultation to learn which Treble Health solution is right for you. Join Melinda and thousands more who have found lasting tinnitus relief.
Book a free consultation to learn which Treble Health solution is right for you. Join Melinda and thousands more who have found lasting tinnitus relief.

Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears and can exist as ringing, whooshing, buzzing, clicking, and other phantom sounds. It can be continuous, or come and go. Usually, tinnitus isn’t bothersome for most people and some types of tinnitus can even disappear on their own. In other cases, tinnitus can be chronic, and a life-long condition people learn to cope with. Tinnitus that lasts longer than three months is considered chronic tinnitus.

The Connection Between Thoughts And Tinnitus

Tinnitus is sometimes painted in a negative light, so of course, when people hear negative things about tinnitus symptoms, their thoughts and feelings about it work against them. Understanding a condition is the first step of any treatment, and is a great way to manage psychological symptoms.

Here are some popular, but often misleading, statements others have made about people living with tinnitus:

“You Need To Learn To Live With It.”

While tinnitus can be a lifelong symptom with as many as 80% of those who experience tinnitus reporting mild tinnitus symptoms. Many of these cases resolve themselves, and no medical treatment is needed. There is, however, the possibility that tinnitus can become more than just a mild symptom, and at that point it can become difficult to ignore.

Woman sitting on the couch in a dark room

Tinnitus can affect a patient’s quality of life, and make it difficult for them to work or function. Acceptance is a major part of treating tinnitus, but acceptance isn’t always easy. Those with chronic tinnitus will need to know how to manage their tinnitus symptoms, and thankfully with the guidance and support of a tinnitus hearing professional and evidence based tinnitus treatment options this is absolutely achievable!

“There Is No Cure For Tinnitus.”

This is true, but it isn’t all doom and gloom. This statement often creates feelings of worry and fear that lead to patients fixating on their tinnitus, leading to even more stress. That will only enhance the psychological symptoms of tinnitus, and make it difficult for the brain to focus on anything else.

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are many treatment options that have been proven effective for millions of those with tinnitus. Many patients living with tinnitus find relief in sound therapy devices and hearing aids. Others focus on behavioral therapy to retrain their brain and minimize the side effects. If they can do it, so can you.

“There Is Nothing We Can Do For You.”

Even though tinnitus is a common condition affecting 25% of the adult population, it typically does not have a black and white cause. Most cases of tinnitus are subjective, meaning only a patient can hear the tinnitus. Without any indication of what could be causing the tinnitus in a medical exam, it can seem hopeless.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, at least 25 million Americans suffer from some degree of tinnitus. Many of these patients learn to cope with the help of their doctor. Finding relief can take time, but it is possible. Here are some of the management strategies and alternative therapies millions of tinnitus patients use to make it less noticeable and more manageable time:

Managing Tinnitus Symptoms

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is used to reduce a patient’s reactions to tinnitus symptoms. Sound masking is a common approach, where other sounds are used to cover or partially cover the tinnitus. White noise machines and nature sounds are common maskers and are often used at nighttime to help patients sleep at night.

Bird noises, song lyrics, or a podcast may be used as a distraction to divert attention from the ringing in your ear. These sounds are things you actively listen to or will grab your attention, especially when you aren’t required to concentrate or focus. Soothing sounds like soft music or ocean waves can help relieve anxiety and can offer relief for patients who have no choice but to interact with triggering noises.

Contrast reduction is a technique that makes the tinnitus less noticeable by introducing other sounds into the environment. A fan as background noise, traffic, or elevator music can be useful anytime tinnitus becomes bothersome.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

Tinnitus retraining therapy TRT, or habituation combines sound therapy with talk therapy. This approach to tinnitus treatment is already used widely and can eliminate the stress and depression that come with tinnitus. Unlike the approaches described above, which typically only reduce tinnitus awareness during the duration of use, TRT can have long-term benefits at reducing tinnitus awareness

Environmental Sound Enrichment

Candle burning in a dark room

Many tinnitus patients report that their tinnitus is louder in quiet environments. Although some patients report that they think they ONLY hear their tinnitus is present in quiet places, it has been suggested that tinnitus is always present, but it is masked by environmental noises. This is why it can feel like the sound in your head is worse at nights. Contrast reduction presents an opportunity to eliminate the silence that makes it noticeable.

These sounds used aren’t meant to be interesting (distracting) or soothing. Instead, they work with the brain’s tendency to notice contrasts or differences. This can be compared to a candle in a dark room vs a candle in a bright room. In a dark room, you’d immediately notice the candle, and nothing else. When a light is flipped on, the contrast is greatly reduced, and less attraction is brought to the candle.

The candle is the tinnitus. Free field speakers, Bluetooth headphones, bone conduction headphones, and on-ear devices like hearing aids and tinnitus sound generators can act as the switch.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are medical devices used primarily to amplify sound for people with hearing loss, and since 90% of those who experience tinnitus also present with some degree of hearing loss, many people with tinnitus also use hearing aids as part of their tinnitus management protocol.

Hearing aids help to provide missing input to the brain, but also help with providing increased environmental sounds which help to contrast the tinnitus awareness further when in use. 

Many of today’s hearing aids also offer built-in sound therapy generators for tinnitus or offer bluetooth technology for availability to stream other sound therapy signals directly to the ears via the person’s hearing aids!

Stress Reduction

Woman sitting in a chair meditating

Stress and tinnitus go hand-in-hand, and stressing will only make tinnitus worse. Use these relaxation techniques whenever your tinnitus makes you feel anxious or overwhelmed:

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation, or PMR is a top-down/bottom-down approach to contracting and relaxing muscles for stress reduction. Inhale and exhale with each contraction and release until the entire body is relaxed.
  • Deep Breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing exercises engage the diaphragm and encourage mind-body relaxation. Practicing deep breathing every day can help improve overall mental health.
  • Guided Imagery uses storytelling and visualization techniques meant to induce positive emotions and calm feelings. Examples of guided imagery include imagining oneself at the beach or in a meadow.

Some people experience anxiety when they hear loud noises as they can sometimes trigger tinnitus symptoms. Wearing hearing protection like ear muffs or noise-canceling headphones to block out loud noise and ease anxiety.

Focus On Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is often an issue for people with tinnitus which makes it even more difficult to function in the daytime. Some people report louder tinnitus at night, as there are fewer distractions. Depression is a common side effect of insomnia and can lead to dark thoughts and isolation. The good thing is, a lack of sleep is easily resolved with rest.

Bed with a sound machine on the nightstand next to it

Some patients run a white noise machine and other masking devices to help them fall asleep. Sleep aids like melatonin can be helpful while patients build a consistent bedtime routine, and improve their sleep hygiene. If the sleep issues persist, it may indicate another issue, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy.

Join A Support Group

Support groups for tinnitus are easy to find online and often give a new perspective on living with tinnitus. People who actually deal with tinnitus are sometimes the best ones to help you cope with the ringing in your ears. It always helps to have moral support, and something as simple as venting to others who can relate can be a source of relief.

Lifestyle Changes

Manage tinnitus by making lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. Staying active is great for overall well-being, and can help distract from the tinnitus. Certain foods, particularly those with high salt and sugar content, as well as alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, can sometimes trigger tinnitus symptoms.

Consider quitting smoking, especially if you have high blood pressure, as this can make pulsatile tinnitus worse. If you work around loud sounds, use ear protection.

Address Health Problems

Tinnitus can be a symptom of several conditions. In these instances, a doctor can ‘cure’ the tinnitus by addressing the underlying cause. Some of these include thyroid problems, heart disease, ear infections, and autoimmune disorders. A common autoimmune disorder that can result in symptoms of tinnitus, hearing loss and vertigo, Meniere’s disease, requires medical intervention from an Otolaryngologist for proper management of symptoms.

Work With The Best Team In Tinnitus Treatment

The audiologists at Treble Health have decades of experience in working with tinnitus patients, and will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan – regardless of the cause of your tinnitus. If you have any questions about how we can help your personal situation, we encourage you to schedule a complimentary telehealth consultation with our team.

By scheduling a complimentary telehealth consultation, you are taking a vital step towards understanding and managing your tinnitus. In this 20-minute Zoom session, our team will provide personalized recommendations, answer your questions, and help you navigate the complexities of tinnitus. We are committed to helping you find relief and improve your quality of life. Click here to book your free consultation and start your journey to a quieter, more comfortable life.

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