Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to cope with tinnitus

I have been suffering from tinnitus from 1994 (since the techno rave era), but it has been severe and affecting my life heavily since 2008.

Recently (from the beginning of 2012) I have seen small steps of progress in my habituation process.

Here are my tips to coping with severe and distracting tinnitus.

1) Accept
Many of us tinnitus sufferers try to find a magical cure, which will remove the tinnitus noise immediately and completely. At the moment, there is no such a cure for tinnitus. After realizing and understanding this cold fact, the attitude towards tinnitus can be changed.

My goal in coping with tinnitus is not "completely free of tinnitus sounds and anxiety" but it is instead "tinnitus is not bothering me at the moment". This goal is a lot easier to reach!

I have accepted my situation, I am hearing tinnitus sound, which is actually quite common phenomena. It is sometimes extremely distracting, but it will be a part of my life for a long time, possibly forever. I can not remove the sound at the moment, I have stopped looking for a cure, I have moved on and now I am trying to improve other areas of my life.

2) Ignore it
One of the most difficult things with tinnitus is that when you think about tinnitus, it will have more and more meaning and the awareness of tinnitus will grow. This will create a never ending loop, unless you will break it.

To break the cycle, just ignore the tinnitus. You can not do it immediately, but you can do it gradually. Stop listening to tinnitus, do not put fingers into your ears and try to measure the tinnitus volume. Do not compare the sound from today to the sound from last week or last month.

Gradually, break the old habits of listening and measuring the tinnitus sound. Do not listen to it every morning in the same spot in the stairs, in your car, at the office elevator or what ever measuring locations you have...  You will notice that it is a lot easier to live, when you do not have the compulsion to listen to your tinnitus! 

3) Think positive
If you can mask the tinnitus sound and there are normal situations in life where the tinnitus sound is masked, enjoy the situation. Do not try to hear the sound, just relax and continue what ever you are doing.

For me, washing dishes or cooking food is quite enjoyable.  I usually put on relaxing music and start to make food for my family. While I am concentrating to cooking, I am not actively listening to the tinnitus sound. If there is a quiet moment, I'll try to listen to the background music instead of tinnitus. This way, I am not hearing (listening to) the tinnitus as long as I am making food.

After some period of time (hour or two hours) without bothered by tinnitus, I will congratulate myself... I have proven to myself that it is possible to live with tinnitus and not get bothered about it. Yes, it was only some hours, but the time can be longer tomorrow and surely it will be longer next week!

4) Relax
Tinnitus often increases when you are under a lot of stress. Logical conclusion is that the tinnitus decreases when the stress is relieved.

I am trying to relax every day while listening to a special relaxation tape, you can found similar sound files from YouTube. I am also using spike mat (acupuncture mat) every evening, or when ever I am feeling tense.

To relax, you can do what ever you want, but it should something that calms you down and relaxes you. Some people do physical exercises, like running or swimming, but for me that is not relaxing at all... :)

5) Listen to natural sounds
I have loaded several natural sounds and relaxation sounds to my iPod. I have water falls, fountains, rain, storms, singing birds, campfire, crickets and Japanese and Chinese relaxation music.

I am listening to these sounds as often as possible, actually all the time when I am at home. It gives to my ears and brains something to listen to, and specifically something else than tinnitus sound.

I have the iPod playing sounds also during the night. For the nights I have loaded "clock ticking" sound to my iPod. This way I can control the sound level for the ticking. Actually I have found that this ticking sound helps me a lot! I just place the iPod next to my bed and set the volume to comfortable level.

6) Sleep
After a bad night sleep, my tinnitus is more noticeable. At least it seems to get worsen if there are several consecutive nights with only few hours of sleep.

Thus I am trying to sleep well. Sometimes it is not possible, but if I am noticing the tinnitus more after a bad night, I can stop worrying because I know the situation will be fixed with a proper hours of sleep.

7) Medication
When the tinnitus hits you really hard, I mean really really hard, it might be a good idea to seek help from a doctor. The stress and anxiety created by the tinnitus should be minimized, because that is actually the worst part of the tinnitus, which will also lead you to the vicious tinnitus-stress circle.

If you are so stressed you can not function anymore, can not work or socialize with your family, perhaps you are crying or can not sleep at all, the doctor should see and understand your situation.

Do you agree with me or not? Do you have questions? Please, leave me a comment!


Chris NZ said...

Some of what you say is true for those with moderate tinnitus, but most with servere might not see it as you do. I have very servere tinnitus from a head injury which has left that ear stone deaf also. Because my ear with the tinnitus is also deaf, the tinnitus is more concentrated and even louder because that ear has no outside noise blending in with the ringing, instead hard core ringing 24,7..365 days a year, without one minute of silence. I've had mine 20 years,and besides the very loud ringing...thats a fu##ing long time to have no silence too. Its constant torture, Its only by the grace of God that I havnt ended my life or gone completly crazy with an Ak47 somewhere. Not even doctors or ear specialists have a clue what it's really like to have permanent servere tinnitus, because they dont have it and dont have to live with it, if one of them had whats going on in my ear, they would not be able or even wanting to continue in their job, and their live would take a very sudden change, which could even result in them taking their own life. Anyway Ive said enough for now, glad you are managing your tinnitus well. But for me after 20 years I still struggle with it every day. Chris, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Jussi said...

Thank you for your comment. I am really sorry to hear that you have tinnitus but do not have the possibility to use any masking noise.

I can still recommend relaxation for you, if you are not already trying it. Relaxation (audio tapes, mindfulness etc) will not take the tinnitus away, but it will lower your stress levels and reduce anxiety.

Best wishes, Jussi, Finland.