Tinnitus--a ringing or buzzing in the ears with no external source--is a common side effect of hearing loss. It can range in severity from day to day, and from person to person. In severe cases, this condition is often debilitating, and even in mild cases tinnitus can be an unwelcome source of stress and anxiety. If you or someone you love suffers from tinnitus, you should know that there are many coping strategies that can make life easier.
5 facts about tinnitus:
- Tinnitus is noises in the head or ears, which are not related to any psychiatric condition. The sounds can be heard anywhere in the head or in one or both ears. In most cases of tinnitus, the sounds can only be heard by the person with the condition (subjective tinnitus) but in some rare cases, the sounds may be audible to an observer (objective tinnitus).
- Although tinnitus is strongly associated with hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise (either prolonged noise or a sudden, intense blast), it can also develop for no obvious reason. Tinnitus can affect people of any gender, age, background, or profession.
- Tinnitus sounds vary from person to person. For some people they are constant, while for others they are more intermittent. The most common sounds to hear are ringing, buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling, ringing, whooshing, clicking and chirping.
- Many people delay seeking help for their tinnitus because they believe it will clear up on its own. Some cases of tinnitus do improve on their own, especially if the sounds are caused by a temporary blockage due to infection, or are the result of medication which can be discontinued. But in many cases, tinnitus does not go away. In persistent cases of tinnitus, it is important to seek professional help and learn about treatment options as soon as possible.
- Tinnitus is a very common ailment; roughly 10% to 15% of adults experience tinnitus. About 50 million US citizens have tinnitus to some extent, of which around 12 million have a condition severe enough that they seek medical help.
Just as tinnitus varies from person to person, one treatment method may not work as well for one tinnitus sufferer as it does for another. Finding relief from tinnitus means working with your hearing healthcare professional and doctor to implement a personalized treatment plan that will work with your lifestyle, address your needs, and help you feel better and more relaxed on a daily basis.
Stress and anxiety are closely linked to tinnitus. Not only are people with high levels of anxiety more likely to suffer from tinnitus, stress also plays a role in the severity of tinnitus symptoms, as well as how successfully people are able to cope with those symptoms. In short, the less stress the better. See the end of this article for a short list of relaxation exercises that can help you effectively process stress and stay grounded and relaxed.
Group Therapy And Counseling
Tinnitus can often be isolating. Being able to share your experiences as well as hear from other tinnitus sufferers can make you feel less alone, and ease the discomfort of living with this condition. One-on-one counseling can be effective as well; your therapist can help you with thought control, habituation therapies, relaxation techniques, and stress management, among other coping strategies.
Many people find relief through listening to comforting sounds, such as music, nature sounds, or white noise. These sounds help to mask the irritating noise of tinnitus, making it less noticeable. Many hearing aids on the market today include sound therapy programs for tinnitus. This type of therapy has been shown to help tinnitus sufferers release stress, focus, and have greater levels of energy throughout the day.
Speak with your hearing health practitioner before deciding which treatment, or combination of treatments is right for you.
A Few Helpful Exercises
Many people also experience relief by doing exercises at home. Here are three simple exercises you can do when you need an extra boost of focus and relaxation. No equipment required!
First, get comfortable:
- Make sure you are in a quiet place
- Sit in a comfortable chair
- Put on relaxing music if you wish
- Turn off the TV, radio or other distractions
- Take off your shoes and wear comfortable clothing
3 Tinnitus Exercises:
These exercises are useful in combination, as a progression, or individually.
1) Progressive muscle relaxation – In a comfortable, seated position, begin to focus on the muscles in one part of your body, such as your left foot. Inhale while you contract the muscles you are focusing on, and hold for 8 seconds. Exhale and release the muscles, letting any tightness and pain flow out with your breath. Continue this process, from one muscle group to another, from your head down to your toes.
2) Deep breathing – The benefits of deep breathing on the mind and body are numerous. Focus on your breath and let everything else go.
- Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale through your mouth for 6-8 seconds
- Repeat this sequence 20 times
3) Guided imagery – This works well in combination with your deep breathing. When you feel very relaxed, close your eyes and continue to breathe deeply while imagining yourself in a supremely relaxing environment. Use all of your sense to imagine the scene: The smell of the pine trees, the sound of the ocean, the feel of sand between your toes. Relaxing background music can help to make the scene even more peaceful.