My Tinnitus And The Power of Suggestion

Since we got our new hearing loss friendly TV, my husband and I have been watching a lot more television. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but watching TV is definitely more fun now that I can better follow the dialogue. We have gotten ourselves particularly addicted to one show on Netflix…

Last night, we were watching an episode where a character was experiencing periodic ringing in his ears as a result of a head injury. A high-pitched sound would play and the character would wince in pain, losing his ability to concentrate or converse. Tinnitus was never mentioned by name, but the signs were unmistakable. The sound played repeatedly through the episode and by the end of the hour, my ears were ringing too.

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The ringing sound on the show was a painful one for me. Given my particular hearing loss and type of hearing aids, high-pitched sounds always bother my ears. This particular ringing was very much like the one I hear when my tinnitus is in full bloom. I winced along with the character in the show each time he heard the noise.

When the program was finished and the TV shut down for the night, I was surprised that I could still hear this annoying sound. It had lingered in my head uninvited and unappreciated, yet persistent and painful. Was it because this particular sound was so reminiscent of my own tinnitus that it had taken hold or was it simply the power of suggestion that the storyline ignited?

I looked to the Internet for answers, but didn’t find many. Tinnitus is not well understood, and what brings it on varies for different individuals. Remedies are also few and far between, although sound therapy and similar methods do sometimes help decrease the impact tinnitus can have on someone’s life.

Thankfully, my tinnitus is not that severe. Normally it is a general background hum that is often masked by my hearing aids. But it can be debilitating at times, especially if it occurs with vertigo or during a hearing test. For me, meditation seems to help keep it in check most of the time.

Luckily for me, I awoke the next morning and the ringing had receded. But I won’t make the same mistake again. The next time a TV show includes sounds of tinnitus, I will watch it on mute, using the captions to follow the storyline.

Readers, does your tinnitus flare up when you hear similar sounds?

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27 thoughts on “My Tinnitus And The Power of Suggestion

  1. I often experience the same thing, it seems like when I hear a particular noise similar to my (severe) tinnitus, it gets stuck in my brain for quite a while! I’m not sure if it’s the power of suggestion, but like you, I protect myself in that kind of situation. I have two cochlear implants, and sometimes I simply take the headpiece off to hear nothing.

  2. This is great information. But for a non techie bewildering. I wish there was somewhere or some company that would just come to your home and figure it out for me.

  3. Hello,

    I always enjoy topics on tinnitus! I am still amazed after 55 years how many people with hearing loss also have to endure tinnitus as a side effect, as if it’s not hard enough to just not hear! What a nuisance tinnitus is!!!! Ive had it all my life and it’s never been easy to live with. I know from experience if I’m subjected to constant noise like a train or airplane motor or a room full of people talking loudly, like a busy restaurant , my tinnitus increases and gets annoying. But usually subsides the next day. Stress also makes my tinnitus a lot worse, even exercise can increase the noise.

    But I’ve always wondered that since tinnitus can be caused by loud noise, can amplifying sound through a hearing aid increase or cause tinnitus? If you put a hearing aid on a normal hearing person and amplified the sound to a hearing impaired persons level, it would become damaging loud noise for a normal hearing person. I’ve asked deaf friends who have never worn hearing aids, and most tell me they have no tinnitus, interesting….

    These are questions most ear doctors and audiologists don’t always know how to answer.

    • I’ve had tinnitus ever since I can remember. I thought it was normal until I was in my early 20’s and I mentioned something to my mom. She was shocked! She said “You have it too?” My dad had tinnitus. Only with him, playing soft music all the time drowned it out. For me, any noise, no matter what the level, my tinnitus was always louder.

      I went for hearing aids right after that. i can’t say that they (the hearing aids) diminish the noise. I always hear it. Sometimes I get so used to it, I just don’t notice it. But it’s always there. Louder at times that I just want to cut off my head to stop it.

      • Tinnitus is very challenging to live with, at times I find it worse than the profound hearing loss. I always thought it was normal too to have since I also had it all my life, and I think at times most everyone experiences it once , if only temporary. My Mom had it from ear wax build up, and once they removed the wax, it was gone (how I envied her !) In very loud environments , I find the only way to survive is to lip read. My brain just cannot distinguish between the tinnitus noise in my head, and the amplified sound from the hearing aid.

      • Hi Janice, I too have had it all my life, I just thought it was normal, think in a way we are lucky as because we thought it was normal we cope with it easier! Mine only bothers me now if I think about it, I try and keep myself busy most of the time so I forget about it a bit! I have two hearing aids which definitely help as I found out I don’t hear the higher pitched sounds and that is why the tinnitus gets worse!

  4. I call this ‘after hearing’. My alarm would wake me and then continue to ‘go off’ well after it was switched off and I was out of bed! I liken it to the spots that linger in your vision after looking at bright light. Needless to say I bought a new alarm clock. Great fun, wakes me with sounds of a waterfall.

  5. I suffer from tinnitus too. The more hearing I lose, the louder it is. And it gets louder just thinking about it, or reading an article about it.

    But my question is about your hearing loss friendly tv. Really? There is such a thing? Could you give some info about it and what makes it better for us with hearing loss?

  6. Tinnitus is the only high frequency I can hear. It can be difficult at times to not focus on it especially when trying to sleep. I accept my disabilities but that doesn’t make it any easier. I’m 68, lifelong HOH, and find myself slowly sinking into solitude.

    • Thanks for reaching out. Have you looked for an HLAA chapter in your area? Meeting others with hearing loss can be very helpful and provide a stress free social outlet.

  7. Hearing loss and tinnitus definitely gets harder to live with as we age. Our poor aging brains just cannot separate the head noises from the tinnitus and from the not so natural and accurate amplified sounds through our hearing aids. We end up confused and dizzy. HLAA chapters for support are rare and few in most areas and many of them are mainly in the big cities. This hearing loss blog is such a blessing, grateful for the support and feedback from all.

  8. I have had that happen, but most often my tinnitus will flare up after I’ve been around white noise like a fan or an open car window for a while.

    Speaking of, I went in for a hearing test on Monday, but Sunday afternoon the tinnitus in my right ear decided to flare up big time. I noticed that the tinnitus made it harder to hear stuff and that the notes on my recorder sounded different because of it, but this kind of thing has happened before and was always temporary so I just brushed it off. Didn’t even think about how it might affect my test the next day.

    When I went to take the hearing test, the ringing was loud and I had trouble concentrating, not to mention the audiologist was having me answer verbally this time around and also going very fast… All three of those things together made me a bit skeptical of the test results. However, there was no denying that my right ear’s results (which showed my hearing in that ear as being much worse in the high frequencies) DID in fact match much of how I was hearing at the time– I couldn’t hear “s”, “t”, “th” or “z”, and there were other sounds I was having trouble with too. I could not understand my mother from a few feet away without paying close attention.

    Fast forward to today, the tinnitus has quieted down quite a bit. There is a website I like to use to check if my hearing has changed (it’s not an official “diagnostic” test because of the calibration issue, and the site itself even says that, but if you keep the same settings and use the same headphones each time you test, then you can keep track of whether or not your hearing has any changes.). I took this online test on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Each day, there was in improvement in my right ear’s hearing, and each day there was an improvement on the graph when I took the test. Basically, my right ear has improved in the high frequencies by 20 decibels since Tuesday. I am able to hear all the sounds I mentioned that I wasn’t able to hear before, and I can actually hear my clock ticking again.

    I’m glad that this is just like all the other times and the tinnitus quieted down and my hearing is working towards going back to how I usually hear… BUT now I find myself confused as to what causes that sort of thing. I never really thought about it before because it’s just a thing that happens… but now I want to know. Problem is I don’t know who to ask…

    Anyway, good post, keep it up! Have a great day!


  9. I would love to know if audiologists think that a flare up of tinnitus can effect our hearing tests. I just got a CI last month and when I’m being tested for tolerances, the tinnitus roars in. I don’t understand how they can adjust our hearing devices when one day, the tinnitus is calm and the next can be terrible. Do you know of any studies on that?

  10. My tinnitus is rather “suggestible”. I always have it. Worse in my left ear than my right. Which follows how my hearing is pretty much gone in my left, about 20% in my right. Hearing aids help to lessen it. But, just reading about it will turn it up! I think because the advice that we all hate about “just ignoring” it does work for me. Being in a loud situation, think of a wedding reception or a concert too close to the stage, will rampnit up too.

    In fact, I just scanned the OP post and most of the replies because of it as is rather not deal will what I call “screaming tinnitus” today.

      • Strange thing tinnitus , and I’ve been told its phantom noises that our brain hears but not our ears . I’ve always avoided too much salt , too much noise , too much stress , no booze, and too much of anything , lol, and aspirin too , only take Tylenol for pain as been told aspirin can also trigger louder tinnitus. I wonder if that theory has ever actually been proven as sometimes I need something strong than Tylenol and avoid taking anything with fear of triggering louder tinnitus ! Ive heard high blood pressure meds can trigger tinnitus as well .

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