How To Deal With Tinnitus
When a someone first gets tinnitus it can be a scary and confusing time. What’s the source of the problem? How should it be dealt with? How serious an issue is it in day to day life?
We’ve spoken to hundreds of tinnitus sufferers along with tinnitus researchers and medical professionals to put together a few suggestions as to how to deal with tinnitus. It’s not exhaustive but it’s a good place to start in coping with tinnitus.
Visit your doctor
First step when you get tinnitus is to visit your doctor. Tinnitus can appear on its own but it can also be a symptom of another underlying condition and that is what you want to rule out with your doctor. Depending on the tests or examinations they deem necessary your general practitioner may refer you on to an audiologist or ENT (Ear Nose Throat) specialist, both of whom deal with conditions of the ear and hearing. Visiting a doctor may also help to pinpoint the cause of the tinnitus which can be useful in investigating appropriate therapies.
Identify your triggers
An important part of managing tinnitus is understanding what affects it and when it is at its worst. Tinnitus varies from person to person so it can be very helpful to keep track of the circumstances in which the ringing in the ears is louder or quieter. For example, some people find that coffee and caffeinated drinks exacerbate their tinnitus and so it becomes easier to manage by avoiding such beverages. Try keeping a journal and see if any patterns emerge. It may well be the case that your tinnitus is totally random but the more information you have at your disposal the better the decisions you can make.
Which leads us neatly on to education. At Restored Hearing lately we’ve been talking a lot about patient powered heath. Essentially, it’s the idea that those suffering would have all the information that they need about their condition so they can be involved in decisions about their treatment course along with their care providers. There are many sources of information about tinnitus and we’ve listed many of them here.
Knowledge is power and given the volume of research that’s ongoing in the area of tinnitus it’s an exciting field to be following. Being familiar with tinnitus terminology and the way potential treatments are tests is also incredibly useful in assessing which therapies are based on science and evidence and which would suit your circumstances.
In many localities there are support groups for tinnitus sufferers. The exact format of the group meetings vary but generally speaking there will be information about tinnitus and hearing damage, speakers visiting to talk about research or tinnitus related topics and there will also be some element of sharing experiences of tinnitus with the group. While not for everyone, tinnitus support groups can be a great way to connect with people who share and understand your condition. This connection often leads to sufferers feeling less isolated and confused about their tinnitus which can lower stress levels which sometimes exacerbate tinnitus.
Protect your hearing
It is widely agreed that noise and age related hearing damage are some of the biggest causes of tinnitus and therefore it’s important to protect your hearing from further noise damage. Many tinnitus sufferers are uncomfortable in noisy environments like concert venues or around loud machinery and as such will avoid these situations. If you need or want to be in a high noise area then using hearing protection is advantageous. It will protect your hearing from damage and potentially prevent any major increase in the loudness of the tinnitus. Depending on the situation over ear or in ear hearing protection may be more appropriate but either way it should be worn at all times when exposed to loud noise.
Tinnitus management therapies
Some people, on being diagnosed with tinnitus, decide that they want to just learn to live with it. This is the course of action currently suggested by many doctors and is a legitimate position if you’re making an informed and considered decision. However, there are a wealth of options if you do wish to try tinnitus treatments.
It’s incredibly important at this juncture to mention that no one therapy has been proven to work for everyone. Tinnitus varies from person to person in terms of cause, manifestation and frequency and so something that works for you may not work for another tinnitus sufferer. So that’s where the education comes in. Understanding your tinnitus, its cause(s) and its triggers, if any, all contributes to being able to make an informed decision about the suitability of any particular treatment.
It would be easy for us to turn around and just say everyone should use our therapy, Sound Relief, but frankly we don’t think that’s fair to tinnitus sufferers. You’re smarter than that. You’re more diverse than that. You deserve better. So here’s a list of the kinds of things to look at when considering a tinnitus treatment. There may be items that are more important to you as a individual and this is only a guide. It’s your health and it’s your decision.
- Scientific proof – What level of proof is there for this therapy? Have they conducted trials?
- Access to information – Can I see their scientific proof? Can I ask questions about their studies?
- Demographics – Is there a particular type of tinnitus this treatment works best for? Is there a set of characteristics that this treatment is proven for (age, sex, tinnitus type etc.)?
- Time – What level of time commitment is involved? Will that fit into my lifestyle?
- Money – How expensive is the therapy? What do I get for that price?
- Guarantee – Can I try it first? What happens if it doesn’t work for me?
- Geography – Do I have to travel to use this treatment?