We can describe tinnitus as the experience of being able to hear a sound when there is, in fact, no sound present. It is usually experienced as a ringing inside the ears but can also sound like buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. Many people experience tinnitus as a temporary condition, especially after coming back from a loud concert, bar, or nightclub.
But for some, the sounds keep coming back.
It is a prevalent condition. The U.S. Center for Disease Control calculated that almost 15% of Americans currently experience some form of tinnitus. About 20 million of these are dealing with chronic symptoms, and a further 2 million find the ringing so unbearable that it heavily impacts their daily lives.
If you are one of those who feel they need a little more help managing the unwanted sounds, here are a few ways to manage the ringing without having to resort to medication.
More and more people are turning to mindfulness to manage their tinnitus. Mindfulness aims to improve our experience of tinnitus and make it less intrusive so that it becomes less of a problem. Far from fighting or changing it, it teaches how to live alongside it, helping us become better habituated. It promotes gentle interest and curiosity and might even lead to the acceptance of tinnitus.
Studies show that elevated blood pressure can increase tinnitus symptoms, so it is essential to take steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy Mediterranean diet improves your health, positively affecting your tinnitus symptoms. On the flip side, regular intake of caffeine and sugary sodas contribute to an increase in blood pressure and thus should be monitored carefully.
Increasing your activity level is also a great way to lower your blood pressure. By involving yourself in activities that involve a good amount of cardiovascular exercise, you can decrease your risk of high blood pressure.
Another effective method is sound therapy. Through ambient sounds, such as a white noise machine (or even your air conditioner), we can begin to mask out the sounds of tinnitus. During the night, tinnitus can be less intrusive with a certain ambient sound level. These devices work the same way. By becoming habituated to the background noise, tinnitus becomes less noticeable.
Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have noise-induced hearing loss. Since there is a strong association between the two, those with tinnitus may find some relief by using hearing aids.
This may help reduce tinnitus symptoms by 'masking' them with the sounds of everyday life. Some studies have concluded that hearing aids do reduce the effect of tinnitus for a sizable number of people. Hearing aids in both ears (Bilateral hearing aids) bring more benefits than using only one. Newer hearing aids also come packaged with specially designed sounds that can help you move your attention away from your tinnitus, similar to the sound therapies mentioned earlier.
Don't forget that tinnitus can often be a sign of hearing loss. Why not see us for a consultation? We can comprehensively check your hearing and provide further advice on how to manage your symptoms.