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Ask an Audiologist: What Are Effective Strategies for Managing Tinnitus?

June 3, 2024
6
minute read

Living with tinnitus can be challenging. The constant ringing, buzzing, or whistling in your ears can interfere with your daily activities, sleep, and overall quality of life. But you don't have to manage this condition alone. At Family Audiology & Hearing Centers, many of our locations offer tinnitus management and are dedicated to helping you find relief and improve your hearing health. With locations throughout Ohio, our Audiologists and hearing aid specialists can help you manage tinnitus symptoms effectively - we are just a call away!

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external noise is present. It’s often described as a ringing, buzzing, or whistling sound, and can vary in pitch and intensity. For some, it’s a mild inconvenience, while for others, it can be debilitating. Tinnitus affects an estimated 10 to 25% of adults, and its prevalence increases with age. Although the exact cause of tinnitus is not always clear, it is commonly associated with hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, head injuries, and certain medical conditions or medications. 

Many people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. This is because the auditory system and brain’s processing centers are closely linked. When hearing loss occurs, the brain might overcompensate by amplifying internal sounds, leading to tinnitus. This makes it crucial for those experiencing tinnitus to undergo a hearing test, as addressing hearing loss can often help manage tinnitus symptoms.

Practical Tips for Managing Tinnitus

While tinnitus itself isn’t curable, there are several strategies that can help alleviate its symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy uses external noises to mask the internal sounds of tinnitus. This can be achieved through:

  • White Noise Machines: Devices that produce calming background noise.
  • Hearing Aids: Modern hearing aids can be programmed with tinnitus-masking features that provide relief.
  • Nature Sounds: Apps and devices that play soothing nature sounds can help distract your brain from tinnitus.

Behavioral Therapies

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) are effective in helping individuals manage their reactions to tinnitus, although they work in slightly different ways. Often, a combination of both therapies can be most effective in managing tinnitus. 

CBT focuses on the psychological and emotional aspects of tinnitus, as well as on changing the way you perceive and respond to tinnitus. It helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors that can exacerbate tinnitus. Reframing tinnitus can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. 

TRT combines sound therapy with counseling to help your brain habituate to tinnitus, making it less noticeable over time. The counseling component helps you understand the psychological basis of tinnitus and develop coping strategies. Sound therapy involves the use of low-level background noise and helps make the tinnitus sounds less noticeable. With TRT, your brain can learn to filter out the tinnitus sound, in the same way we adapt to white noise like the refrigerator or a fan. 

Stress Management

Stress and anxiety can worsen tinnitus. The ringing or buzzing in our ears might become louder or more intrusive while our bodies are stressed. Sleep disruption, elevated levels of  stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and hyperfocus can all stem from unmanaged tinnitus. It is important to note that the relationship between stress, anxiety, and tinnitus is complex and can vary between individuals. Relaxation techniques for managing stress and anxiety can often help reduce the impact of tinnitus and improve overall well-being. Techniques include: 

  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Helps reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Mindfulness Meditation: Teaches you to focus on the present moment and reduce the stress response.
  • Physical Activity: Regular exercise can improve your overall well-being and reduce stress.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can positively impact your tinnitus. Reducing intake of caffeine, alcohol, and sodium, which can exacerbate tinnitus, can help. Assess your sleep hygiene and establish a regular sleep routine as well as a quiet, comfortable sleep environment. Regular exercise can also help alleviate stress and improve blood flow, both of which are beneficial for managing tinnitus. Extend your healthy lifestyle choices to hearing protection. Preventing further hearing damage is essential. Invest in custom earplugs to wear in noisy environments to protect your ears from loud sounds, and keep the volume of music and other audio devices at safe levels.

Treatment Options for Tinnitus

There are  several advanced treatment options for managing tinnitus effectively. These options are designed to target the specific causes and symptoms of tinnitus and provide relief. 

Hearing Aids

Many modern hearing aids come equipped with tinnitus-masking features. These devices not only improve your hearing but also help mask the internal sounds of tinnitus, making them less noticeable. Some hearing aids also offer sound therapy programs that introduce soothing sounds, which can help distract the brain from the tinnitus and provide relief. 

Sound Therapy Devices

Devices specifically designed for tinnitus relief can provide significant benefits. These include wearable sound generators that produce gentle background noise to distract the brain from tinnitus.

Counseling and Support Groups

Talking to a counselor or joining a support group can provide emotional relief and coping strategies. Sharing experiences with others who understand what you’re going through can be incredibly beneficial.

The Importance of Professional Help

Managing tinnitus on your own can be overwhelming and frustrating. Consulting with a professional audiologist can provide you with the support and effective treatment options you need. At Family Audiology & Hearing Centers, our experienced team of audiologists offers comprehensive tinnitus management services designed to help you find relief and improve your hearing health.

  1. Personalized Care: We understand that tinnitus affects everyone differently. Our audiologists will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and lifestyle.
  2. Comprehensive Hearing Tests: To determine the underlying cause of your tinnitus, we conduct thorough hearing evaluations. Identifying any associated hearing loss is crucial for effective management.
  3. Expert Guidance: Our team of audiologists are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care. They use the latest technology and evidence-based practices to ensure the best outcomes for our patients.

Take the First Step Toward Relief

Living with tinnitus can be challenging, but you don’t have to face it alone. At Family Audiology & Hearing Centers, we are committed to helping you manage your tinnitus symptoms effectively. If you’re experiencing tinnitus, we encourage you to book a consultation at one of our convenient locations. Our team is here to provide you with the support and solutions you need to improve your hearing health and quality of life.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment and take the first step towards finding peace in silence. Let us help you reclaim your hearing and your life.

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