My tinnitus flares up in the winter. Every year. It is sometimes accompanied by dizziness or vertigo and a cloudy feeling in my brain. It can be hard to concentrate and to focus on the task at hand. I lose my balance during my yoga practice, especially in the backbends. I just want silence, but it eludes me — that pesky ringing a constant and unwanted soundtrack to my life. Thank goodness, meditation helps me manage the buzz, keeping it at bay most of the time. Unfortunately, others are not as lucky.
Tinnitus Is Not Well Understood
Tinnitus is the experience of hearing sound when none exists and it can take many forms. Mine is most often a high-pitched ring, but for others, it can be a ringing, a buzzing, or even musical. It may pulse along with your heartbeat, or be triggered by repetitive noises. According to the British Tinnitus Association, about 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives.
For some people, tinnitus is so loud it drowns out other sounds, even voices, making conversation difficult. For others, it can be masked by wearing hearing aids or by playing soft music. Tinnitus is not well understood, and there is currently no cure.
Coping Mechanisms for Tinnitus
While there is no cure, there are ways to make coping with tinnitus a bit easier. Don’t be taken in by miracle herbs or supplements — most are too good to be true, but dietary changes like reducing salt and caffeine do help some people.
Here’s what works for me. Please share your suggestions in the comments.
Wearing hearing aids
The constant influx of sound through my hearing aids — even in a quiet environment there are always background noises — helps mask my ringing much of the time. This masking effect is one of the reasons I choose to wear extended wear hearing aids.
I discovered this almost by accident at a yoga retreat many years ago. It was my first experience with meditation, but the impact was almost immediate. When I sat quietly and focused on my breathing during the meditations, my tinnitus eased into the background. After many months and years of regular meditation, my tinnitus is thankfully well controlled for most of the year. The one exception is as the weather turns cold each winter.
Seeking peer support
Finding others that share your experiences with tinnitus can be a big help. Not only can they commiserate with your suffering, they may have suggestions for easing the strain. Talking about the problem and sharing stories can be very therapeutic. At least you know you are not alone in your struggles. There are many Facebook groups for people with tinnitus. Join a few and see which one feels right for you.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
I have not tried this yet, but I find it intriguing. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses a series of techniques including relaxation, discussion and problem solving skills to change the way a person responds to a negative stimuli. When successful, it retrains your emotional response to the tinnitus, putting it into a more manageable place in your life. The tinnitus does not go away, but your reaction to it eases.
CBT is most often conducted one-on-one with a trained professional, but apps are also being created to fill in when individual counseling is not possible. CBT looks to be a promising area for future exploration.
Tinnitus Week Helps Raise Awareness
Tinnitus Week runs February 1-7 this year. Launched in 2020, Tinnitus Week aims to raise awareness about tinnitus, inspire scientific research into its causes and remedies, and provide resources for people suffering from tinnitus. To get involved, click here.
Readers, what do you use to manage your tinnitus?
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19 thoughts on “Tinnitus: When Unwanted Sound Breaks the Silence”
For several years I was terribly troubled by this. Then i was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Lowering my blood pressure lowered the tinnitus as well. Maybe another thing to check…
Interesting idea. Thanks for sharing it.
I had a raging bout of tinnitus years ago during prime allergy season. The culprit? Sudafed. Thank goodness I found other allergy relief options, and it’s no longer as severe.
How interesting! Thanks for sharing that information.
I have had Tinnitus since I was in Viet Nam and fired a 50 caliber machine gun without ear protection. When I entered the service (Air Force) I went through all kinds of medical tests as does everyone. One of the things I learned was that I had remarkable high frequency hearing – around 24,000 CPS. When I got out, it was below 18,000. And I had tinnitus, constant high pitched ringing and buzzing in both ears.
I have no idea what research has been done, is being done – only that no cure has been found. But I have a theory and wonder if it has been looked into.
The cochlea has tiny ‘hairs’ called stereocilia which respond to sound. The smaller ones respond to higher frequencies and the larger to lower – similar to any stringed musical instrument. Those which respond to the higher frequencies are shorter and more delicate.
My theory is that extremely loud noises can break these – and since they have no where to go, they remain in the cochlea. Any number of things, motion, pressure, sound, etc. could cause these to change positions and ‘short out’ (so to speak) the tiny nerves that send the sound signals to the brain. And that is my theory as to the cause of tinnitus. If it were possible to clean out those broken stereocilia, that possibly could cure or at least reduce tinnitus.
Has anything like this been considered in the research?
I have not heard about any research in that area, but hopefully science will soon find a cure. In the mean time, meditation can help us live with it a bit better. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Thanks you for this blog Shari! It is so valuable and helpful. I wanted to ask if you ever post anything about Pulsatile Tinnitus? I have lived with tinnitus for years but have also been experiencing this and for quite a while did not know what the periodic “wooshing” sound in my head was but now seem to think it may be Pulsatile Tinnitus. Any thoughts?
I believe pulsatile tinnitus is often experienced in sync with your pulse, hence the name. It would be worth asking your audiologist or doctor about it. Thanks for your comment.
I had really bad tinnitus a few years ago but couldn’t figure out why. The doctors were like there’s nothing we can do about it. So I began to brainstorm why this was happening…then I realized it was my diet. I kept having tons of Starbucks coffee all the time so I ended up not drinking it anymore. My tinnitus disappeared. I was lucky but not everyone has that.
That is great! Some people do get some relief from cutting back on salt and/or caffeine. I am glad that worked for you. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Many, many drugs, OTC and prescription, have a side effect of ringing in the ears. Check out Neil Baumann’s book on ototoxic drugs. It lists an unbelievable number of ototoxic tinnitus-causing drugs.
That is unfortunate. Thanks for sharing the information.
My daughter has it and she reports that tapping on her forehead with her finger 20 times calms it
Interesting. I am glad she found something that works for her. Thanks for your comment.
Here is some useful information that have worked very well for me, especially the sound therapies.
Podcast That Specializes in Tinnitus: Conversations in Tinnitus
Research: https://otolaryngology.med.wayne.edu/profile/ab5673 | Dr. Jinsheng Zhang, who is a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, in the School of Medicine and jointly appointed in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Liberal Arts College at Wayne State University.
Sound Therapies: https://www.ata.org/managing-your-tinnitus/treatment-options/sound-therapies
Thank you for sharing.