How To Manage Tinnitus
WHAT IS TINNITUS?
Tinnitus is the perception of sound without an external sound source. It is often referred to as “ringing in the ears” although the sound can also be described as hissing, roaring, buzzing, whistling, chirping or clicking. Tinnitus may be constant or intermittent, can occur in one or both ears and often seems like it is originating from somewhere within the head.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE TINNITUS?
More than 50 million people in the US have reported experiencing some form of tinnitus. Up to 25 percent of the adult population has experienced some type of tinnitus at some point. About 10 percent of the population will request medical evaluation for tinnitus. The chance of tinnitus increases with age and is more prevalent among men than women and in those with high BMI, or history of noise exposure, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety or high cholesterol.
Limit or avoid exposure to loud noise. If you must be around loud noise, use hearing protection. Be careful with the volume when using headphones or earbuds for music. Reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine or tobacco and see if your tinnitus improves. Maintain a healthy weight and practice stress-free living and good sleep hygiene.
WHAT CAUSES TINNITUS?
Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom associated with a number of causes and aggravating co-factors. The exact cause is not known, although there are several likely sources that can trigger or worsen already existing tinnitus. Tinnitus is generated in the auditory portion of the brain in response to external factors that may include noise trauma, wax blocking the ear canals, pain relievers, medications/medication interactions, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, allergies, TMJ, head trauma, neck issues, diet, general health, relaxation, recreational drugs, fatigue and sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety.Hearing loss is most commonly associated with tinnitus. When the brain is no longer stimulated by certain pitches, it starts to fire randomly on it own. This spontaneous fi ring (when done at the same time) is thought to be the origin of the phantom perception of tinnitus.
IS THERE A CURE FOR TINNITUS?
There is currently no cure for tinnitus (although research is being done). For now, we try to manage the symptom of tinnitus by changing the reactions to it. We want to take bothersome tinnitus and turn it into non-bothersome tinnitus. Studies have shown that a reduction in tinnitus loudness does not correlate to a reduction in how bothersome the tinnitus is. In fact, most tinnitus is measured around 5dB above threshold, even when it is perceived to be as loud as a jet engine.
Many people have been told in the past that “nothing can be done” or they “have to learn to live with” their tinnitus. This is not true. Even simply knowing that there are strategies to manage your reaction to tinnitus can help. Understanding what tinnitus is (not a disease) and how to manage it is the first step.
SOUND THERAPY OPTIONS
There are many methods of using sound stimulation but the basic idea is to distract your brain from focusing on the tinnitus. It is important to note, we do not want to “mask” the tinnitus, when using sound therapy you must still be able to barely hear your tinnitus, or the brain wont be able to learn to habituate, a fancy word for get used to it.
- Pleasant, unfamiliar music or soothing environmental sounds
- Make you feel better (reduce stress/anxiety)
- Table-top fountains (around ~$20)
- Tinnitus Apps (FREE) ~Resound Relief, Phonak Tinnitus Balance, Widez Zen Tinnitus
- Notch Therapy - Audio Notch App or audionotch.com
- SleepPhones by Acoustic Sheep ($40-$100) - Headphone to use for sleeping
- Distract you from your tinnitus
- Should barely be able to hear tinnitus
- Table-top noise generators (around $50)
- Turn a fan on (FREE)
- Hearing Aids/Ear-Level Noise Generators
STRESS MANAGEMENT OPTIONS
Stress activates our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous response, leaving us feeling distracted, overwhelmed, and making it difficult to sleep. The ability to change your thoughts and feeling in general can be very challenging and take work and practice, like exercise for the brain. But the ability to change your feelings and reactions about your tinnitus can be the most powerful method to managing your tinnitus. Ways to do this include:
- Mindfulness Meditation - Headspace App, Calm App or Breathe App
- Better Sleep Hygiene
- Deep Breathing Exercises - Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi
- Imagery Exercises - For example, imagine the hum of your tinnitus is a hive of bees off in the distance as you’re enjoying a picnic on a summer’s day.
- Physical Exercise
- Medications - For anxiety or depression
- Novel Touch Therapy - Apollo Band ($350) gentle waves of vibration, that stimulate your “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous response and retrains your nervous system to manage stress more effectively on your own
Protect your ears from excessive or damaging noise
- Download app to measure the noise in your environment - NIOSH or Decibel X
Damage occurs above these levels/durations:
To learn more about our approach to treating tinnitus, call (916) 646-2471 to schedule a consultation today!
Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.Contact Us Now