You probably don't need a definition of tinnitus if you suffer from it, and you're well aware of its inconvenient, unpleasant, and at times downright stressful effects. For those of you who don't have tinnitus or aren't sure if you do, the symptoms include a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears that is more obvious in quiet surroundings, such as when trying to fall asleep at night. While many people have tinnitus with little to no effect on their everyday lives, for some, the ringing is so bad, it affects their quality of life.
There is currently no cure for tinnitus, and however, sufferers do have options for reducing tinnitus-related stress. We've put together a list of four coping tactics that you can implement right away to help you cope with the aggravating effects of tinnitus.
When your tinnitus is bothering you, you might attempt a variety of relaxing techniques. These activities are designed to help you relax while also diverting your attention away from noticing your symptoms.
A deep breathing technique: For this exercise, it is recommended that you wear loose, comfortable clothing, remove your shoes, and sit or lie in a quiet and comfortable location. Breathe out entirely through your mouth (to empty your lungs), then inhale for 4 seconds via your nose, hold your breath for 4 seconds, then exhale for 6-8 seconds through your mouth. For optimal results, repeat this pattern for at least 20 cycles.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Sitting in a comfy chair or lying down in bed is recommended. Listening to soothing music is another option, provided it won't distract you. Starting with your feet, focus on flexing and tightening one body area at a time. Hold this muscle for at least 8 seconds while entirely concentrating on it. After then, exhale slowly while releasing the muscle, visualizing the pain and tension leaving your body. Continue working one muscle at a time up your body until you reach the top of your head.
Guided imagery: This is a practice that most of us employ without even realizing it. Try to visualize yourself at your "happy zone" after taking deep breaths or following the breathing routine outlined above. To truly transport yourself there, use all of your senses. Feel the sea breeze on your cheeks, smell your mother's cake baking in the oven, or recall your first taste of ice cream. Imagine this in as much detail as you can. It may also help you visualize if you listen to music that takes you back to this time or place.
Stress management techniques: It has been discovered that when we are stressed, our tinnitus gets worse. Learning to manage stressors in your daily lives effectively may help to alleviate tinnitus symptoms. Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Usually, it's not as bad as we think. In stressful situations, another strategy is to concentrate on all of the positive aspects of the day. Small wins can include things like "My commute was quicker than expected today" or "That was a pleasant conversation with the checkout clerk."
Sound therapy or apps generate generic background noise, such as white, pink, nature, or other subtle sounds. Sound machines can partially or entirely conceal your experience of tinnitus, allowing you to relax and temporarily relieve your symptoms.
The "classic" sound masker is a single-purpose tabletop or bedside device with various pre-programmed sound selections. However, practically any sound-producing equipment, such as smartphones, computers, radios, and televisions, can be utilized to mask unwanted sounds. Electric fans or table fountains can also be used to produce sound masking. Sound masking devices are helpful in the short term, but it's best used in conjunction with other treatments for long-term relief.
Tinnitus is present in 80 percent of hearing loss cases, so it makes sense that many hearing aid manufacturers include tinnitus masking features in their devices. These function like sound therapy in that they work to mask the sound of tinnitus. Another benefit of hearing aids is that they raise the overall volume of the surroundings, which can aid further in relegating the sounds of tinnitus to the background.
Some hearing aids also include a feature called Notch Therapy. This can reduce the perception of tinnitus without hearing an auditory signal like white noise. The purpose of Notch Therapy is to train your brain to ignore the tinnitus sound over weeks or months of hearing aid use. People with tone tinnitus (the most prevalent type of tinnitus) benefit the most from this type of treatment.
Further reading: Hearing Aids for Tinnitus
You'll need to have a hearing test and get a hearing aid fitting if you want to use hearing aids to help manage your tinnitus. That's where we come in! Our hearing professionals will assist you in selecting the best hearing aids to alleviate your tinnitus problems. Contact us to schedule an appointment.