Article contributed by James Morrison, Tinnitus and You
Tinnitus is a condition where one hears a sound such as ringing, whooshing, hissing, clicking, or buzzing, which isn’t produced by an external source. It is estimated that almost 90% of people with Tinnitus also have hearing loss. It can be caused by exposure to loud noises and ototoxic medicines (medications that cause ear-damaging side effects). Tinnitus might also result as a secondary condition that accompanies sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL).
Here, James Morrison talks about how he met his fate with Tinnitus. You will also learn how James was then able to overcome his struggle with Tinnitus, by making a series of changes over a period of almost one year. James has documented his efforts to overcome Tinnitus at Tinnitus and You, a Tinnitus self-help blog to help people help themselves with their Tinnitus.
My Tryst with Tinnitus
It all began when I visited a friend’s uncle’s garage to check out his war memorabilia collection. I was 21 and in college. This was almost 4 years ago.
Among the things cluttered in the garage was an air raid siren. Impeccably restored and painted bright red, it looked like the centerpiece of the collection. And, it had a large button. I don’t know what came over me but I just pressed the button. I’ve been called senseless, unaware and even stupid for pressing that button. When I do think back about that moment, I believe I just had a childlike intent to see if the relic worked.
And worked it did! It took a good 5 minutes for my friend’s uncle to breathlessly run into the garage to turn the incredibly loud and wailing siren off, something that I couldn’t figure out in all the sheer panic and howling. But, by then, the damage was done.
Tinnitus started and stuck with me for the next 2 years.
My Failed Attempts at Overcoming Tinnitus
One of the biggest mistakes I made was to use the “wait and see” approach in managing my tinnitus. It wasn’t until 6 months after fruitless waiting, did I make my first attempt to try to seek help.
I visited an audiologist. His recommendation was for me to use a Tinnitus Masking Device to help me undergo Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). This is a therapy where you essentially try to listen to another noise, like white noise, to help your mind ignore Tinnitus. TRT is usually also accompanied by some counselling to help you try to cope with Tinnitus.
Though TRT can be an effective tinnitus management technique, I was reluctant to wear hearing aids with integrated Tinnitus therapy during the day. I didn’t go through with it.
Triumph Over Tinnitus
There was no overnight cure. But a series of cumulative efforts over time helped me significantly reduce the intensity of my Tinnitus. At Tinnitus and You, I have chronicled what worked for me to help manage my Tinnitus. I’ve also backed my recommendations with intensive research to help you make an informed choice about trying to deal with Tinnitus.
Here are 5 simple tips to help you manage your Tinnitus:
- Find a Way to Sleep Better – Sleeping with Tinnitus is hard. The biggest obstacle to sleeping with Tinnitus is constantly trying to seek silence. You must instead try to habituate and fight the urge to constantly WANT silence. The following strategies helped me on my journey to habituation and may help you too:
- Play white noise during the night, generated by a phone or white noise machine. Even the hum of a table-top fan can help.
- Focus on the ringing! Though this sounds rather counter productive, it can trick your brain into actually ignoring Tinnitus, even if for a short while.
- Distract yourself with some activity when you have a strong desire for silence. Even mundane things like laundry, tidying up or running errands can help you fight off the urge to want silence. Hobbies help too.
- Meditate or try guided meditation. Here’s an excellent guided meditation video for sleep:
Tinnitus habituation is very powerful. When you sleep better, even slightly better, your Tinnitus will often start to get better.
- Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements – Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, iron, folate and magnesium. Deficiencies in these vitamins may exacerbate your Tinnitus. And, supplementing such deficiencies through supplementation or with dietary changes can help reduce or even resolve your Tinnitus. Please note, always speak with a healthcare provider before starting a new dietary regimen, which includes vitamins and supplements.
- Eat Healthy and Exercise – Ever wonder why you have a Tinnitus spike after a salty or sugary meal? I find that eating a healthy diet helps lessen the impact of my tinnitus. Changing eating and lifestyle habits can give you profound benefits when suffering from Tinnitus, when applied consistently.
- Reduce Stress! – I find stress and tinnitus to be the mother of all vicious cycles. Stress makes my Tinnitus worse, and Tinnitus makes stress worse. This cycle can have a negative effect on mental health. Habituation, meditation, counselling, focusing on activities or simply being mindful about your stress levels can help you reduce stress. When the stress is dialed back, the ringing will often take a back seat as well!
- Consult with an Audiologist – If your Tinnitus is caused by hearing loss or sudden sensorineural hearing loss, I would recommend that you seek support and advice from an audiologist. An audiologist can carry out a thorough hearing evaluation and determine whether hearing aids might help. Hearing aids can help improve the quality of external sound for the wearer, meaning they become less focused on the inner sounds caused by tinnitus. Some hearing aids have a tinnitus masking feature where white noise or soothing sounds are played into the ear.
Don’t Lose Hope
Tinnitus doesn’t have a cure, but it can be managed. Start with the recommendations above and believe you can overcome Tinnitus. Over time, you will be able to habituate to it, not letting it completely consume your life!
Thank you to James Morrison for this contribution.