Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of tinnitus. It is when you perceive a sound or noise, but there is no related sound stimulus present for others to experience. Tinnitus can be intermittent, constant, and or fluctuating in nature. A person’s tinnitus can be very bothersome or not very bothersome at all. For those who experience bothersome tinnitus it can begin to impact many areas of their daily life. It can affect overall focus, mood, social interactions, and health, especially the ability to get restful sleep. This has a negative impact on all areas of life. As you can quickly guess, the effective methods for tinnitus management are going to vary depending on an individual’s experience with their tinnitus..
Hearing aids, Sound Therapy, and tinnitus “masking” devices are often discussed primarily when discussing treating tinnitus, but there are other lifestyle changes and techniques we can use as well. More specifically, there are many physical and mental exercises you can do to help reduce the bothersome effects of your tinnitus. The goal of these exercises is to provide stress relief and reduce our emotional reactions to tinnitus. Tinnitus and your limbic system, or emotional response center in your brain, are closely connected which is why taking care of our emotional and physical health can have a positive influence in lessening the impacts of your tinnitus.
How to get relief from tinnitus
Getting relief from tinnitus can at first seem like a daunting process. It is generally not a fast relief style process but the important part to note is that there is relief to be had and a tinnitus trained audiologist is your best tool for tinnitus management. Once you’ve taken the first steps in tinnitus management, which is often a hearing and tinnitus evaluation your audiologist will help create a treatment plan. One important aspect to note is that tinnitus management is not a cure, but the goal is to lessen how loud your tinnitus is, lessen how often you are aware of it, and hopefully move it from bothersome status to non bothersome status. Adopting a positive attitude and approach to your tinnitus and the management process is an important aspect in this process. We need your brain to work on this acceptance process so you can be open-minded to some of the relaxing and exercise activities aimed at lessening your tinnitus awareness through habituation. Once your brain is able to begin the habituation process, it can then start to tune the tinnitus out and you can become less aware of it throughout your day.
Learn to tune tinnitus out
Tuning the tinnitus out will be difficult at first, but eventually can become second nature. Think of it like riding a bike. In the beginning it is very hard to keep your balance, pedal, and break all at the right times. You may fall a few times, but you must keep back on the bike to learn. Once you have learned, it becomes muscle memory, and you are able to ride the bike for long periods of time. Habituation of your tinnitus can be done through relaxation and meditation, autogenic relaxation, visualization, or progressive muscle relaxation. Relaxation and meditation/autogenic relaxation focus on calming our limbic system and reducing the activity in our fight or flight response. This can then help reduce the effects of your tinnitus. Visualization is similar, except you focus on visualizing you getting through a day without being bothered by tinnitus. You visualize your own success with tinnitus treatment and that you can tune out the tinnitus. Progressive muscle relaxation is a guided meditation that teaches you to focus solely on individual body parts and how they feel. It will guide you to focus on your toes, fingers, hands, feet and move throughout your entire body. All of these require your full attention, taking it completely away from your tinnitus and teaching you to tune it out, even for short periods of time. Like riding a bike, this can be then learned to be extended to hours or even days.
Lifestyle and home remedies for tinnitus
Since habituation to your tinnitus is a process, and not every strategy works for every patient, you need to be willing to try other methods suggested to help lessen your tinnitus. Other strategies can be used for in-between periods when you feel stressed by your tinnitus. You can wear hearing protection around loud sounds to help prevent hearing loss or a perceived increase in your tinnitus. You can also incorporate exercise or yoga into your daily routine. These release endorphins that fill our body and mind with happiness, which can help overcome the negative feelings associated with tinnitus. You can also evaluate your diet and limit the amount of alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine you are consuming. These substances act as depressants or stimulants which can make some people’s tinnitus become more bothersome, for others, these items do not cause any difference.
Tinnitus management isn’t only in the field of audiology. Other helpful members of the healthcare community are mental health professionals. Reaching out to a mental health professional who can help provide guidance on how to manage your tinnitus. Most commonly, these professionals will provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to change your negative reactions about tinnitus (I hate the sound, I am bothered by the sound, I cannot sleep because of it, etc.) into neutral emotions. They have the skillset to help you outside of the realm of hearing. If you do not have a mental health provider, reach out to your audiologist as they can make recommendations about clinics/providers that are familiar with tinnitus management and mental health blended techniques.
Overall, alone, tinnitus can be very difficult to manage. But, when you navigate this space with the right team, tools, and exercises you can take control back of your life. You have tinnitus but your tinnitus doesn’t have control over you! If you are having a hard tinnitus day, step outside, take a walk, turn on your favorite music, give yourself a little grace that this may be one sign your brain is telling you that you need to slow down a little as you may be stressed or overwhelmed. It may also be a sign to reach out to your mental health provider or audiologist to update some techniques to deploy at-home for you to regain control of your tinnitus. It could be as simple as making a goal for yourself to have a few minutes to practice meditation before bed, put the phone down, and set yourself up for a good night’s rest so that you can face tomorrow well-rested. Tinnitus management doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs to be what works best for you.