When someone notices a ringing in their ears, they typically search online for answers or go to their primary doctor for an evaluation. They will soon discover that they have tinnitus.
A Google search for “ringing in the ears” will lead to an article from Mayo Clinic. The article does a good job in listing the common causes and risk factors, but fails to discuss treatment or management options. Unfortunately, there is a lack of education about tinnitus among most doctors in the healthcare industry.
No one talks about evidence-based methods to manage tinnitus. Primary care doctors are notorious for telling patients “you’ll just have to live with it” and failing to explain “how” to live with it.
In this article, you will learn the basic neuroscience of tinnitus, the role of hearing aids for tinnitus, and practical tips for tinnitus relief that no one is talking about. You’ll find the following video quite helpful.
From my years of working as an audiologist, one of the biggest misunderstandings I see every day is when someone comes into my clinic and describes that they have tinnitus. They commonly asked me, “What’s wrong with my ears? Do I have something going on with my ears?”
I have to explain that the source of tinnitus is not the ears. The origin of the sound comes from the brain. Tinnitus is not only an auditory phenomenon. If the tinnitus was just an arbitrary sound, then it would not cause much of a problem.
Tinnitus gets feedback from the emotional centers of the brain. It also gets feedback from the nervous system of the body. If you feel stressed or anxious, the body sends messages to the brain to stay in the fight-or-flight state. In the activated fight-or-flight state, the body is on high alert and categorizes tinnitus as a potential threat. Typically, this is how tinnitus can get louder, also referred to as a tinnitus spike.
If you were not aware of this happening in your body, then you would likely react negatively to your tinnitus getting worse. This reaction creates a vicious cycle of negative reactions and tinnitus. Fortunately, individuals who have tinnitus may be able to train their brain to react less to tinnitus. This is something that happens over time through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.
Learning how to control your reaction to tinnitus is the most important part of therapy. Sound therapy is another essential strategy to manage tinnitus, especially in the early onset of loud tinnitus.
Sound therapy for tinnitus includes hearing aids, soft background music, different types of white noise, or nature sounds. In a quiet place, it is natural to hyper-focus on the tinnitus signal. Using sound helps by lowering the perceived tinnitus volume and distracting the mind.
Hearing aids are an important tool for tinnitus relief, and usually the most sustainable way to reduce tinnitus during the day. Some hearing aids have features designed specifically for tinnitus. That includes playing relaxing nature sounds through the devices. This is commonly done via Bluetooth streaming on most hearing aids.
One of the most underrated benefits of hearing aids for tinnitus is called amplification. This simply means that hearing aids increase the volume of any sounds around you. The speech and environmental noise are amplified.
The most commonly cited treatment for tinnitus is hearing aids. Hearing aids do not cure the noise, but may reduce the volume of tinnitus while wearing the devices. Eargo hearing aids offer amplification through discreet in-ear devices, with telecare support by licensed hearing professionals.
The most common causes of tinnitus are hearing loss, ear injury, or as a side effect of medication. Tinnitus and hearing loss are known to be related; however few people know about the relationship between stress and tinnitus.
Stress can exacerbate tinnitus. I have personally worked with patients who did not report tinnitus for most of their lives until it became noticeable after an extended period of emotional stress. Increased levels of stress and anxiety may indirectly make tinnitus louder.
Stress-induced tinnitus will benefit from therapies aimed at reducing stress, anxiety, and healthy sleep habits. Unfortunately, it is not possible to directly turn down the volume of tinnitus. The only proven way to improve tinnitus is through indirect pathways.
Focus on reducing any stress and anxiety. Don’t watch TV late in the evening. Eat healthy. Exercise during the day. Learn meditation, tai chi, or yoga. Seek help from respected tinnitus groups. Work with a therapist.
When your body is calm and your mind feels safe, you are likely to better manage your tinnitus. Once that happens, the loud sound of tinnitus may get softer, too.
A comprehensive approach to managing tinnitus will focus on the whole person. This includes psychology, the nervous system, and sound therapy. If you purchase a set of Eargo hearing aids and find that you need additional help managing your tinnitus, please consider reaching out for a personal telecare consultation with me. The initial call is no charge if you mention Eargo.