Can I Get Relief From Tinnitus?

There are many conditions and external factors that cause and aggravate tinnitus. Even if the cause is unknown, it can be managed.

While it is true that there is no cure for tinnitus, it is possible to manage, alleviate, and overcome. So yes! You can get relief from tinnitus. Bear in mind though that tinnitus is a symptom, so pin-pointing and rectifying the cause of the tinnitus would be the most effective way to address it (i.e. disorders or diseases causing the tinnitus may require medical management). 

Tinnitus can be frustrating and you may want answers right away, but identifying the cause is often a process of elimination. Both an audiological and medical diagnosis are necessary.

The first step in dealing with tinnitus is to have a hearing assessment so that hearing loss can be identified or ruled out as the cause. Counseling and written information should be provided by a hearing health care professional. 

It is also important to identify and rule out any possible medical causes e.g. have your blood pressure checked, and have a medical consultation with a health care professional to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing the tinnitus. 

There are many conditions that cause tinnitus, and there are many things that aggravate it. Even if you do not know what is causing the tinnitus, you may already have identified some aggravating factors which would be helpful to either reduce or avoid.

Strategies and tips to manage tinnitus

Avoid silence

It’s more likely that you will focus on the tinnitus and be upset by it if there is nothing else for you to listen to. 

Sound therapy (sound enrichment)

Other sounds that are more pleasant can help to distract you, making the tinnitus less noticeable. This is sometimes referred to as sound therapy. As you become aware of other sounds in the environment, the tinnitus signal is perceived as less important and fades into the background as you pay less attention to it.

Sound therapy devices

Use sound therapy devices to help you to shift your focus from the tinnitus. The goal of sound therapy is to teach your hearing system to ignore the unwanted sound, so as a general rule, the replacement sound should not completely mask the tinnitus signal. Some examples of sound therapy devices are: 

A sound pillow is a pillow with built-in stereo speakers. 

  • Radio, sound system, streaming device, or TV

Set at a low volume level so that you have to strain to hear what is being said, or just off station so that interference is heard. If you have the TV on, make sure that the content isn’t negative or upsetting. Rather choose something positive or pleasant. You may wish to sign up at www.soundtherapy.com where you can listen to sounds proven to lower anxiety and increase memory. There are also tinnitus masking apps available which you may find helpful.

A device that aids tinnitus sufferers in getting a restful night’s sleep by playing nature sounds.

A device with built-in sounds as well as the option to stream via Bluetooth from a mobile device or computer.

A sound generator that fits comfortably in or on the ear. It generates a sound that makes the distressing tinnitus noise less noticeable.

Environmental sound

If you do not have access to such devices, it may be helpful to turn on a fan to help “cancel out” the tinnitus, or open a window so that outside sounds are more audible. If you are outdoors, listen to the ambient sounds around you. What’s important is that you try not to focus on the tinnitus.

Where appropriate, correct hearing loss with the use of hearing aids to improve auditory input

If you have a hearing loss, the loudness of the tinnitus appears to be increased as average sounds around you are softer, and as such don’t override the tinnitus to the same degree as they would for a normal-hearing person. If you have any difficulty hearing, even a slight hearing loss, hearing aids with suitable amplification are frequently helpful as effective tinnitus maskers. The hearing aid makes sounds, which you may not otherwise hear, audible, and may drown out the tinnitus. Most patients report at least some relief when using hearing aids. 

Hearing aids combined with tinnitus maskers

There are many hearing aids on the market today that incorporate tinnitus maskers which can be programmed to produce a white noise signal constantly or activated in certain programs. The volume of the white noise can also be adjusted depending on the severity of the tinnitus. 

While masking can be most helpful while it is in use, it has also been shown that there can be an improvement in tinnitus for a brief period after using a masker. This is known as residual inhibition and is most successful when the masking noise is in the frequency range of the hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Protect your hearing

Avoid loud noise, or where this is impossible, make sure that you wear adequate hearing protection.

Manage your stress level

Tinnitus can be extremely frustrating and distressing. Some people become stressed or anxious as a result, which can make things worse. You may benefit from learning relaxation methods and ways to combat stress. If you become depressed or particularly anxious, it would be best to consult a doctor for advice regarding treatment. Relaxation techniques (such as massage, breathing exercises, etc.) or relaxation aids such as lavender or Bach Rescue Remedy may be helpful.

Get enough rest

Symptoms can be worse if you are tired, and if tinnitus prevents you from sleeping well, this can develop into a vicious cycle. Getting a good night’s sleep is important. If we don’t sleep well, we feel drained, our energy is depleted, we feel worn out, can become more easily irritated and tinnitus potentially becomes worse. 

Get enough exercise

Regular, vigorous exercise is important for everyone. Exercise has many benefits: it increases circulation, helps to get rid of toxins, supplies nutrients to the brain and auditory system, and is an excellent means of relieving stress. During exercise, endorphins are released which raise pain thresholds and improve your mood. Overall, you just feel better after exercising and done regularly, it also helps you to sleep better at night. Try to exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes once the heart rate starts to increase. Try not to exercise within three hours of bedtime. 

Eat a balanced diet

Make sure you get the nutrients you need (e.g. zinc, vitamin B12 and Magnesium), preferably naturally from food. You may wish to try the BioArmor Hearing Health micronutrient supplement by Premier Micronutrient Corporation (PMC) whose products have been shown to be completely safe in over 10 years of public consumption as well as in studies. 

On the other hand, dietary supplements such as ginkgo biloba, melatonin, and zinc have no proven efficacy and may be potentially harmful.

  • Reduce or remove aggravating foods/drinks from your diet

You can determine if a food or drink has an effect on the tinnitus by removing it from your diet and later reintroducing it. This way you can figure out which foods and drinks aggravate the tinnitus and which don’t affect it. You may want to try limiting or eliminating these items (which can worsen tinnitus) from your diet to see if it helps:

  • Alcohol 

Drinking alcohol can increase your blood pressure, which can cause you to notice the tinnitus more. 

  • Coffee, colas, and other caffeine-containing products 

Products that contain caffeine such as energy drinks and weight-loss supplements should be avoided. Caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant and could potentially worsen tinnitus. Caffeine can also cause your blood pressure to go up, which could set off tinnitus. 

Salt, artificial sweeteners, and high doses of aspirin can worsen tinnitus which is why it’s best to reduce the intake of these. If you need aspirin for medical reasons, talk to your doctor first.

Stop smoking

Smoking can narrow the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the ears’ sensory cells. Recent research indicates that smokers may have a small increased risk of developing tinnitus. Smoking can also increase your blood pressure.

Specific and extended tinnitus management options

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

TRT, provided by hearing health care professionals, comprises both counseling and sound therapy. The aim of TRT is to retrain your brain to filter out or ignore the tinnitus as irrelevant sound (yes, your brain has that ability!) Through this therapy, people can learn to cope with the tinnitus. In fact, TRT’s success rate in terms of reducing annoyance from tinnitus is higher than 80%.

If you are struggling with tinnitus, there is hope. With a combination of counseling and sound therapy, those suffering from tinnitus can be sure to find relief. Talk to a hearing health care professional about your situation and get the help you need today.

James W. Hall III, Ph.D. Presentation. Assessment & Audiologic Management of Tinnitus: Good News for a Bad Problem (2008)

Written byJacqueline Reeves Scott

B. Communication Pathology

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