- Correcting your hearing loss
If your tinnitus is linked to hearing loss, it’s important to address the root cause. If you have hearing loss, your brain may replace the absence of sound with a perceived sound, which manifests as a ringing in your ears.
Addressing this, with a hearing aid for instance, will ensure that your brain isn’t working as hard, which may reduce the effects of tinnitus. It also means that you’ll be better able to hear sounds that you weren’t able to hear before, which may counteract the tinnitus noises.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy
Tinnitus retraining therapy, also known as TRT, helps to retrain your brain. Through a combination of sound therapy and counseling, TRT supports you to tune out the ringing sounds and become less aware of it. This in turn, should help you to become less bothered by it over time.
A 2020 study found that sound therapy can be effective in suppressing tinnitus. This involves exposure to background noises like white noise to mask the symptoms of tinnitus, or to distract you from it. There are several approaches to sound therapy, ranging from simple measures like opening a window to let noises from outside filter in, to using a white noise generator to produce a soothing sound that covers up the ringing in your ears.
As tinnitus can be debilitating, it can be difficult to deal with it on your own. Talking therapy can help you to better understand your symptoms, and devise strategies to deal with it.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that aims to change a person’s thought patterns. In the case of tinnitus, it challenges one’s ways of thinking about their tinnitus, aiming to retrain their behavior.
Changing the way you think and feel about your tinnitus may not reduce the ringing you hear in your ears, but it can improve your outlook and reduce the impact your tinnitus has on your everyday life.
You may also wish to develop your own toolkit of coping strategies for your tinnitus, which you can pull out whenever you need help. That’s because tinnitus can become worse when you let your health and wellbeing slide. As Kathleen Wallace explains it:
“With tinnitus, it actually becomes more pronounced or more bothersome when people are stressed or when they are tired, or when they haven't eaten well. All of them can cause tinnitus spikes. So just like how noise can become more bothersome and can really result in stress and anxiety and all these things, it's the same thing with tinnitus.”
Some self care ideas for improving your health and staying on top of your tinnitus include:
- Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
- Improving your sleep – and your sleep routine. Things like sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding using your phone before bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help you to get a better night’s sleep, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
- Finding a hobby you enjoy: this can help to distract you from the irritating ringing you hear in your ears.
- Talking and sharing your experience of tinnitus with others in the same position, through a support group.
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is hearing loss – and while some hearing loss can’t be prevented, much of it can.
Let’s take musicians as an example. Musicians are 400% more likely to have hearing loss than the general public, and 57% more likely to have tinnitus.
But it’s not just musicians who suffer from tinnitus – people who listen to music, both at concerts and through earbuds (most of us, then!) are also at a high risk of losing their hearing and developing tinnitus. Research has shown that nearly 50% of people aged 12-35 could be exposed to unsafe noise from personal listening devices, and 40% of people in the same age group could be exposed to damaging levels of noise at concerts.
It’s important, then, to be mindful of the levels of noise you’re exposed to and take action to protect your ears, both at concerts and on a daily basis. Dr Kathleen suggests that earplugs for tinnitus are a simple way of doing this. She explains:
“Earplugs are really good for protecting your hearing when you don’t have control over what you’re being exposed to, it’s environmental or you’re at a concert, whatever it is, you can’t turn that volume down yourself.”
Earplugs like Loop Experience can help you to live in the moment, by filtering sounds equally across all frequencies so you can hear sounds perfectly – but at a reduced volume, with up to 18 decibels of noise reduction.
Wearing earplugs will not only help to reduce your chances of hearing loss, but also your risk of developing tinnitus. As Dr Kathleen says:
“If you have damage in the ears from noise, you’re more likely to develop tinnitus, so you’re reducing your risk of that with earplugs.”