I have to admit that I’m lucky not to suffer from tinnitus to any great degree. I do have a high pitched hum when I remove my hearing aids, which can be a little distracting, but its certainly not the overwhelming sound that some people can find completely debilitating.
I’m therefore not able to draw on my own personal experiences when writing about tinnitus, so instead I’ve taken the opportunity to spend a few hours doing some research to learn more about it. Here I share the fruits of my labours drawn mainly from the excellent websites that I’ve referenced below.
11 facts I’ve learned about Tinnitus
- Tinnitus varies between individuals but is usually described as a constant ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears that has no external source.
- Tinnitus can be ‘Tonal’ (the perception of near-continuous sound with well-defined frequencies), ‘Pulsatile’ with pulsing sounds, often in-beat with your heartbeat, or ‘Musical’ with the perception of music or singing, sometimes the same tune on a constant loop. This latter form is very rare.
- In the UK, 10% of adults (or 6 million people) are thought to suffer from tinnitus. About 1% of those adults (600,000) has tinnitus that affects their quality of life.
- In the USA, the prevalence is estimated at 15% of the population, or 50 million, with 2 million people suffering from debilitating tinnitus.
- Tinnitus is often associated with exposure to noise (i.e. working in noisy environments without sufficient ear protection or listening to loud music at concerts or through headphones). It can also occur following a single exposure to loud noise such as a firework or gunshot.
- High risk occupations include the armed forces, heavy industry and musicians.
- Tinnitus is also age related (ie its more common in people over 65) but can also result from head injuries, taking some types of medication (such as aspirin), infections and certain types of tumours.
- Its often associated with hearing loss and so any testing or treatment for tinnitus is likely to include treatment for your hearing loss at the same time. In fact, having hearing aids for your hearing can sometimes dramatically minimise the tinnitus you’re experiencing.
- For many sufferers, the problem is more noticeable at night and in quiet environments which can make the symptoms more obvious.
- Some tinnitus sufferers can also suffer from hyperacusis which is sensitive to loud noises.
- Tinnitus can’t be cured but there are various ways of alleviating its impact.
Getting help with Tinnitus
Unfortunately, the internet seems to be flooded with remedies of a very dubious nature that make promises about quick fixes. Beware of them.
Whilst tinnitus can’t be cured, there are some treatments that can help. Here are some of them:
Learning to relax can provide some relief. Stress has been found to be associated with an increased in symptoms of tinnitus and so its important to take steps to relax through such things as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation and yoga.
Counselling and psychological support
Counselling can include individual or group counselling, relaxation techniques and stress management. If you are referred by your doctor to a psychologist, you might also receive instructions on how to control your thoughts or be offered a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT. More details of this can be found on the Action on Hearing Loss website here.
Avoiding silence and using sound therapy
Silence can increase your awareness of tinnitus and therefore increasing the level of background noise in your environment can help to stop you from focussing on your tinnitus.
Some easy solutions around the house include having a desktop fan running, turning on a radio, using an indoor water feature or a ticking clock.
Sound generators are also available which can play natural noise such as waves breaking, running water or birdsong. Alternatively, if you have a smartphone, it is possible to download apps that play similar sounds. These, alongside pillow speakers and sound pillows can also be helpful at night when it can be difficult to go to sleep.
Many hearing aid manufacturers offer sound therapy solutions bundled into programmes with their hearing aids. For example:
- Phonak offer hearing aids that contain a noise generator and a smartphone app which can customise a library of sounds and music that can be streamed to your hearing aids.
- GN Resound offer “ReSound Relief’ for tinnitus management which can be streamed through your hearing aids via a smartphone and which combines sound therapy with relaxation exercises.
- Siemens also has tinnitus functionality built into its range of hearing aids, and finally,
- Widex has what it calls its ‘Zen Therapy’ as a unique music program built into its hearing aids but also offering a standalone tinnitus management program.
It can be helpful to use such sound therapies alongside counselling.
Alternative or complementary therapies
There is little evidence of the effectiveness of alternative therapies in the treatment of tinnitus but what they might be able to do is to help you with relaxation.
Protect your hearing
Finally, and whilst it goes without saying, I’ll say it anyway, avoid situations that can cause further damage to your ears and exacerbate your tinnitus.
Whilst I struggled to find any blogs dedicated specifically to tinnitus, there were some great individual blogs posts out there. However, they seemed to be overwhelmed by websites that appeared to be acting as covers for trying to sell you dubious treatments so if you just do a google search for tinnitus blogs, then take care about giving some of them too much credence.
However, I always think its good to read about other people’s experiences as it can help you to put things into perspective. Its also helpful knowing that you’re not the only person out there and that there are others in the same boat. You might also find some useful advice and tips from people and the comments that are left on their blogs that people share.
So the best blog posts I found included:
A broad ranging blog about the causes and treatments of tinnitus and the sound therapy that eventually helped one woman to cope (who who later went on to become the CEO of the American Tinnitus Association)
From the ‘Invisible Disability and Me’ blogsite. This offers a personal insight into life with tinnitus.
From the ‘Living with Hearing Loss’ blogsite.
In addition, the British Tinnitus Association has a good page of case studies and they are always looking for people to contribute their own stories. They also have support groups across the country that you can join along with an online forum.
So, that sums up my whistle stop tour of the internet which helped me to find out some of the facts around tinnitus and its treatment.
I hope its been helpful for you too, but what’s your experience of tinnitus?