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?