According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million Americans are impacted by tinnitus. Tinnitus is a ringing, humming, buzzing or other sound in your head or ears that does not have an outside source. The sound can be constant or can come and go. Tinnitus is typically associated with some degree of hearing loss. Many people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss, however, not everyone with hearing loss experiences tinnitus. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss; although it can be one of the symptoms of hearing loss.
For some people, tinnitus is just a nuisance; for others it is a life altering condition. Many people have been told or believe that nothing can be done about tinnitus. Not true! Today, there are many successful management techniques available.
If you or someone you know has tinnitus, the first step is to schedule a hearing evaluation by an Audiologist (Doctor of hearing science). The Audiologist will review the results with you and advise you if further evaluation is recommended. After ruling out medical factors, the Audiologist will educate you about tinnitus management.
Tinnitus management is all about education. The goals of tinnitus management are; to reduce emotional reactions, reduce stress, assure little if any attention is given to the tinnitus, it does not affect any life activities in a major way and further help is not needed.
80% of individuals with tinnitus can be helped with tinnitus management. 20% continue to be bothered by tinnitus and need individualized support along with management techniques. I encourage my patients to begin with the basics before investing a lot of money and time in expensive equipment and programs. Following are a few of the basic management techniques to get you started.
Don’t worry! You don’t have to practice all of them at once. Instead, I encourage you to choose 1 or 2 recommendations and practice them for at least 8 weeks. When you feel ready, add 1 or 2 more ideas from the list to your daily practice.
Excessive Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus. My rule of thumb in noise; if it is loud enough that you need to speak loud to be heard over the noise…it is loud enough to require hearing protection.
Decrease Salt intake; less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day if you are healthy and less than 1,500 mg if you have high blood pressure. ¼ teaspoon of salt has 600 mg of sodium.
Check and manage Blood Pressure. Tinnitus is linked with hypertension.
Avoid or decrease stimulants such as caffeine and Nicotine. Be aware of hidden caffeine such as chocolate, soda and teas.
Get plenty of Cardiovascular exercise. A healthy heart, arteries and veins have a positive effect on hearing and tinnitus.
Manage stress. Stress is the #1 cause of disease in the body. Stress as defined by Hans Selye, dean of the stress concept, as the “rate of wear and tear in the human body”. Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as mediation and conscious breathing. Add stress management ideas to your daily routine such as laughter and a healthful diet.
Avoid over Fatigue. Know and honor your limits which will change with the season and life circumstances.
Get Plenty of Rest; commit to a good night’s sleep. Adequate rest reduces stress and fatigue.
Use Therapeutic Sound. For many people tinnitus is more noticeable in quiet, such as bedtime. Consider using a fan or other low level white noise at night or in quiet. Other effective strategies are ocean, rain or other nature sounds using apps on your phone, I-pod or CD player. The idea is to play soothing sounds at a low volume level, not to make the sounds louder than the tinnitus.
Schedule an appointment for a tinnitus consultation to learn more about your individual needs to better manage tinnitus.