Ringing in the ears – or tinnitus – is a very common symptom. For many people, tinnitus will subside on its own. For others, ringing in the ears is a persistent stressor that requires intervention. While we recommend a complete tinnitus evaluation with an experienced audiologist for anyone with moderate to severe symptoms, below we provide a few tinnitus self-help tips and home remedies to help people achieve some degree of relief.
Tinnitus Self-Help and Remedies
1. Avoiding silence is the best, most effective tinnitus remedy!
In a completely quiet environment, your brain will try to hear any sounds more clearly, including the sound of your tinnitus. Having some sound in the background is essential to create contrast with your tinnitus and lessen your focus on the ringing in your ears.
The important aspect of this tinnitus self-help strategy is that the background noise is soothing to the person who needs it. Low-level music, nature sounds, and even sound from outside through an open window can work. Sound preferences and what people consider soothing vary greatly from person to person. That’s why we offer several different soundscapes.
Click here for free Soothing Sounds for temporary tinnitus relief.
Alternatively, try using a sound generator to play soothing sounds or shaped noise at a volume just below that of your tinnitus, even while sleeping. The brain is still active while we sleep; therefore, creating a contrast to the tinnitus brain activity can improve our ability to stay in deep sleep cycles longer.
2. Learn to relax
It is normal to worry about tinnitus, and this stress seems to worsen symptoms. That’s why it is important to learn to relax. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are some techniques you can use to help you relax. Aromatherapy, improved posture, massage, and yoga have similar relaxing benefits. Since no two people are the same, try these different methods for several days to determine what best helps you relax.
3. Stay active
Keeping active and involved in your interests and hobbies can enhance your quality of life, taking your focus away from your tinnitus. Trying something new, rekindling an old interest, or helping in the community keeps your mind busy but can also help with optimal health. Many experts recommend at least 40 minutes of daily physical activity, and exercise is great for your body and brain to manage stress.
4. Protect your hearing, but not too much!
Protecting our hearing with earplugs in loud environments is important. Wearing earplugs when mowing the lawn, attending a concert, and using power tools is strongly encouraged. Do not use earplugs; however, to block out everyday sounds. Avoiding everyday sounds with hearing protection can heighten the central nervous system’s response to normal sound levels, making them seem much louder than they are. This can lead to hyperacusis or hypersensitivity to sound, in addition to tinnitus.
5. Stay healthy
Watch your diet
You know if you are eating healthy or not. A healthy diet will make you feel better, but certain foods, particularly salty foods (i.e., MSG), can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms. Reducing – not eliminating – daily salt intake and incorporating healthy eating habits can help with tinnitus relief.
Everything in moderation
We know too much caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco is harmful to our health, and all three can aggravate tinnitus. However, not everyone will have these as a tinnitus trigger. In our experience, keeping everything in moderation is a more realistic mindset. If you find something is a tinnitus trigger, you should be mindful of reducing or eliminating it to have more control.
6. Get good sleep for tinnitus relief
Sleep is the best meditation. — Dalai Lama
Without enough deep sleep, you will never feel fully rested and refreshed. Deep sleep is when there is an inhibition period whereby the neurons in the brain are silent. During this period, the neurons can rest. If you struggle to fall asleep naturally, try listening to soothing sounds while in bed. Click here for free Soothing Sounds.
Others may need to alter their whole sleep routine if they do not get at least four hours each night. Taking a closer look at habits right before you go to sleep is often necessary to improve your ability to achieve deep sleep. Avoiding screens before we want to fall asleep – such as TVs and cell phones – is a simple change that can make a big difference for many.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time as much as possible. Limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to the best of your ability. The one-hour difference would be ideal though not necessarily realistic for everyone.
Watch what you eat and drink before bed
Avoid jumping in bed hungry or with a stuffed belly. Specifically, avoid big meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine may also work against your efforts for a good night’s sleep.
Create your sleepy space
Make your room ideal for sleeping – cool, dark, and quiet.
Avoid daytime naps
Long afternoon naps can interfere with your sleep patterns. If you do nap, limit yourself to 30 minutes.
Physical activity can promote better sleep, but avoid exercise too close to bedtime. Spending time outside every day may be helpful and a great tinnitus remedy, too.
Destress before bed
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Write down what’s on your mind and leave it until tomorrow.
Quickly respond to changes in your hearing.
Consider significant changes in hearing (i.e., no hearing from an ear) a medical emergency. Doctors can often reverse the loss if they treat it within 72 hours of onset. Without immediate attention, the loss of hearing may be permanent and irreversible. If the sudden loss is due to an infection or viral attack of the inner ear, antibiotics or steroids may help, but typically only if administered immediately after the symptoms first appear. Sudden loss may also be present with debilitating vertigo or chronic dizziness. Although many people want to “wait it out” at home in bed, this is a bad idea. Diagnosis and treatment work best immediately following the onset of symptoms. Please get to Urgent Care or an ER as soon as possible if this happens to you!
Every semester break after final exams, we get at least a half dozen calls from college students worried about ringing in their ears and looking for some sort of tinnitus remedy and relief. Many of them are stressed out, probably not eating healthy – most likely fast food, drinking lots of caffeine to stay awake, maybe having a couple of cocktails to celebrate at night, and most definitely not getting nearly enough sleep. It is easy to identify the tinnitus causes with these students. When this happens, our advice is to stay home, eat some good food, limit consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and get some sleep.
If you are struggling with buzzing or hissing in your ears and you are stressed, malnourished, and not sleeping well, making changes to address these tinnitus causes and triggers can be pretty straightforward. It is something else entirely when tinnitus symptoms appear out of thin air, when none of these remedies help, and when they last for several weeks. At that point, you need to seek help from an experienced audiologist specializing in tinnitus who can direct your care.
If your path to relief requires more than these tinnitus self-help tips have to offer, seek professional help. When you do, it is critical to find an audiologist that specializes in tinnitus treatment and has extensive experience working with tinnitus patients. Also, plan on at least a year, possibly 12 – 24 months of treatment. Symptoms can improve quickly with proper treatment, but rewiring the brain takes time to generate a new neural pathway.
Ringing in the ears typically does not develop overnight and generally cannot be reversed overnight. We successfully treat tinnitus using Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, or TRT. Using a combination of prescriptive sound therapy and educational counseling, we help patients take control of their tinnitus. We are ultimately blocking the perception of it after 12 – 24 months. Reducing the intensity of tinnitus requires an active role of our patients, and we will expertly guide you to tinnitus success!