Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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Do you feel a ringing in your ear that just won’t go away? It sounds like you are one of 50 million Americans with tinnitus.
We can describe tinnitus as the experience of being able to hear a sound when there is in fact no sound present. It usually experienced as a ringing inside the ears, but can also sound like buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. Some patients even talk of hearing melodies. Many people experience tinnitus as a temporary condition, especially after coming back from a loud concert, bar or nightclub. But for some, the sounds just keep coming back.
Tinnitus is very common condition. The U.S. Center for Disease Control estimate that almost 15% of Americans currently experience some form of tinnitus. About 20 million of these are dealing with chronic symptoms, and a further 2 million find the ringing so unbearable that it heavily impacts their daily lives.
If you are one of those who feels they need a little more help managing the unwanted sounds, here are a few ways to manage the ringing without having to resort to medication.
More and more people are turning to mindfulness to manage their tinnitus. The aim of mindfulness is to improve our experience of tinnitus and make it less intrusive so that becomes less of a problem. Far from having to fight or change it, it teaches how to live alongside it, helping us to become better habituated. It promotes gentle interest and curiosity and might even lead to acceptance of the tinnitus.
With something as audibly invasive, it can be difficult to change how we feel about tinnitus, so any steps taken with managing it though mindfulness method starts slowly. Therapy usually begins with a regular series of short, simple meditations. The idea of changing our responses to tinnitus, coupled with the stress-relieving benefits of meditation means that if done regularly, it can be a surprisingly effective and budget-conscious way to manage tinnitus symptoms.
Studies show that elevated blood pressure can increase tinnitus symptoms, so it is important to takes steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, green vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fruits improve your health, which can have a positive effect on your tinnitus symptoms. On the flipside, regular intake of caffeine and sugary sodas contribute to an increase in blood pressure, and thus should be monitored carefully. Try replacing them with healthier beverages such as tea, water or moderate amounts of juice.
Increasing your activity level is also a great way to lower your blood pressure. By involving yourself in activities which involve a good amount of cardiovascular exercise, you can go a long way towards decreasing your risk of high blood pressure.
Another effective method is sound therapy. Through the use of ambient sound such from a white noise machine (or even your air conditioner) we can begin to mask out the sounds of tinnitus. During the night, tinnitus can be less intrusive with a certain level of ambient sound. These devices work the same way. By becoming habituated to the background noise, tinnitus becomes less noticeable.
Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. Since there is such a strong association between the two, those with tinnitus may find some relief by using hearing aids. Hearing aids offer technology that may help reduce tinnitus symptoms by ‘masking’ them with the sounds of everyday life. Some studies have concluded that hearing aids do reduce the effect of tinnitus for a sizable number of people. The use of hearing aids in both ears (Bilateral hearing aids) bring more benefits than using only one. Newer hearing aids also come packaged with specially designed sounds that can help you move your attention away from your tinnitus, similar to the sound therapies mentioned earlier.
Don’t forget that tinnitus can often be a sign of hearing loss. Why not see us for a consultation? We can comprehensively check your hearing as well as provide further advice on how to manage your symptoms. Contact us at Encore Hearing today to learn more.