Living with tinnitus can be a daily struggle. Tinnitus can come in many forms, but it often manifests as a ringing, buzzing, or humming noise.
Millions of people experience tinnitus every year. The persistent noise from tinnitus can make even simple daily tasks a challenge. Some people experiencing tinnitus report that they’re having trouble concentrating because their tinnitus is such a distraction. Others emphasize the negative effects that tinnitus has had on their personal relationships.
What is Tinnitus and Why Does it Occur?
Tinnitus affects over 50 million Americans annually, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Furthermore, they report that approximately 20 million of those people are living with “burdensome chronic tinnitus”
Tinnitus is characterized by a noise that can only be heard by you. Many people report that their tinnitus is a high-pitched ringing noise, but it can come in many forms, such as buzzing, humming, or roaring.
Tinnitus can be caused by various factors, such as:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Structural damage
- Earwax buildup
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Ménière’s Disease
- Ototoxic medications
- Other health concerns
Tinnitus involves the brain’s auditory cortex. This is the area of the brain responsible for hearing. When we experience hearing changes, our auditory cortex kicks into gear, attempting to compensate, and this can result in tinnitus.
What Should I Avoid When Experiencing Tinnitus?
If you’re living with tinnitus, there are certain things that you should avoid, including:
- Complete Silence: Believe it or not, silence can make tinnitus worse. If you have hearing devices that provide sound therapy, then you already understand how background noise can help alleviate tinnitus. However, if you haven’t yet sought treatment for your tinnitus, avoiding complete silence on your own can help provide relief.
Playing soft music or using a white noise machine can be helpful in distracting our attention away from our tinnitus–especially while sleeping.
- Triggers: Additionally, certain triggers can make tinnitus symptoms even worse. Your triggers may be different than someone else’s, so it’s important to take the time to pay attention to what makes your tinnitus worse. In general, some triggers are very common amongst those experiencing tinnitus, including:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Salty foods
- Very loud noises: Finally, loud noises can exacerbate your tinnitus. Always make sure you’re protecting your hearing when you’re around excessive noise. Things like loud music or gunshots may require you to wear filtered earplugs or earmuffs. Even being around loud machinery such as lawnmowers or motorcycles is a reason to protect your hearing with earplugs.
However, it’s also important not to overprotect your hearing. If you’re simply completing a daily task with normal background noise, such as going to the store or to work, it’s important not to wear hearing protection. If you protect your hearing too much, then your central nervous system can compensate, making normal, everyday sounds seem louder than they really are.
What Should I Do When Living with Tinnitus?
While it’s important to know what to avoid when living with tinnitus, there are other things that you should make sure you are doing. Some of the most important things you can do to help manage your tinnitus are:
- Visit an audiologist: The most important thing you must do if you’re experiencing tinnitus is to meet with an audiologist right away. First, if you ever experience a sudden change in your hearing, it may be indicative of a potentially serious medical problem, such as an illness or structural damage.
Additionally, meeting with an audiologist can immediately help you feel better about your tinnitus–knowing that there is someone who understands and will be helping with your symptoms. Furthermore, treatment options such as sound therapy can be extremely effective in treating tinnitus. Reaching out to a professional is your first step in restoring your hearing health.
- Be patient: While visiting an audiologist is an important first step, the journey doesn’t end there. Rather, it’s important to be patient with your tinnitus treatment plan. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy can be very effective, but it can take upwards of 12-24 months to experience long-lasting relief.
Don’t give up on your tinnitus treatment if you don’t find your symptoms reduced right away. Remember that tinnitus originates in the brain, and it takes time to rewire your brain and reduce your tinnitus.
- Make time for relaxation: Finally, it’s important to find ways to relax when living with tinnitus. Stress can make tinnitus worse, which can result in more stress, and it can become a vicious cycle.
Make sure you’re taking time to practice calming self-care, such as meditation or yoga. The more you calm your mind, the more your tinnitus symptoms may seem manageable. Additionally, look for opportunities to engage in your favorite recreational activities, especially ones that involve physical engagement. Keeping busy with things you find enjoyable can take your mind off your tinnitus, and tinnitus exercisehas been shown to be effective in relieving stress.
Tinnitus can be very disruptive to your daily life, resulting in stress, a lack of focus, and an inability to connect with people. However, there are things you can do to help manage your tinnitus symptoms. Try to avoid triggers and complete silence, as they can exacerbate your symptoms. To learn more about how tinnitus is affecting your life, take our tinnitus impact survey.
Additionally, always make sure you see an audiologist and remain patient with your treatment plan. Your tinnitus did not develop overnight, so don’t expect your symptoms to disappear overnight either. However, if you are steadfast in your treatment, you can experience relief and get back to living your life the way you want.
If you or a loved one is experiencing tinnitus, reach out to Sound Relief Hearing Center in Colorado or Arizona at one of our 8 locations. You can also schedule an appointment online to meet with one of our audiologists. We look forward to hearing from you!