Many wonder if there is treatment for tinnitus, a condition often characterized by a constant or persistent ringing in one or both ears. Sadly, there is no cure for tinnitus but there are treatments available for tinnitus which could offer relief for those who suffer from it. 

While there is treatment to assist in managing, alleviating, and overcoming tinnitus, it is necessary to understand that it is most commonly a symptom of something else. It is best to consult with a hearing healthcare professional to identify and address the root cause of tinnitus for a more permanent solution. 

Strategies and tips to manage tinnitus

White Noise

Those who suffer from tinnitus will most likely encounter it when there are no other sounds around. The reason for this is that there is nothing to distract your brain from focusing on the ringing sound in your ear. In silence, it is easy to hyperfocus on the ringing from tinnitus, which will inevitably lead to frustration.

A simple solution is to use a white noise generator which should give you relief from tinnitus, as it will offer something else for you to focus on. You could also use the free white noise content that is widely available on the internet, or put on background music for quiet periods.

Sound therapy (sound enrichment)

Other sounds that are more pleasant can help to distract you, making the tinnitus less noticeable. This is sometimes referred to as sound therapy. As you become aware of other sounds in the environment, the tinnitus signal is perceived as less important and fades into the background as you pay less attention to it.

As we mentioned earlier, white noise can be beneficial here, or you can have non-verbal music playing in the background which should offer enough distraction for tinnitus, but not so much as to stimulate you too much.

Sound therapy devices

Sound therapy devices will assist with redirecting your focus away from the tinnitus. It will not block the sound of tinnitus completely, as the goal is to teach your hearing system to automatically filter out the unwanted ringing. Below are some examples:

  • A sound pillow - a pillow with built-in speakers.
  • Radio, sound system, or TV: make sure that the volume is set to a level where you can barely hear what is being said, or use non-verbal content. You want the sound to be barely audible so that you focus on the content rather than the tinnitus.
  • There are digital services you can sign up for, where you can listen to sounds that can assist with tinnitus, anxiety, and even enhance your memory.
  • White Noise Generator (wearable tinnitus masking unit)
  • A sound generator that fits comfortably in or on the ear.

Environmental sound

If you do not have access to such devices, it may be helpful to turn on a fan to help “cancel out” the tinnitus, or open a window so that outside sounds are more audible. If you are outdoors, listen to the ambient sounds around you. What’s important is that you try not to focus on the tinnitus.

Where appropriate, correct hearing loss with the use of OTC hearing aids to improve auditory input

If you have a hearing loss, the loudness of the tinnitus appears to be increased as average sounds around you are softer, and as such don’t override the tinnitus to the same degree as they would for a normal-hearing person.

If you have any difficulty hearing, even a slight hearing loss, OTC hearing aids with suitable amplification are frequently helpful as effective tinnitus maskers. The OTC hearing aid makes sounds, which you may not otherwise hear, audible, and may drown out the tinnitus. Most customers report at least some relief when using OTC hearing aids

OTC Hearing aids combined with tinnitus maskers

There are many OTC hearing aids on the market today, such as the Go Hearing range, that incorporate tinnitus maskers which can be programmed to produce a white noise signal constantly or activated in certain programs. The volume of the white noise can also be adjusted depending on the severity of the tinnitus. 

While masking can be most helpful while it is in use, it has also been shown that there can be an improvement in tinnitus for a brief period after using a masker. This is known as residual inhibition and is most successful when the masking noise is in the frequency range of the hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Protect your hearing

Avoid loud noise, or where this is impossible, make sure that you wear adequate hearing protection.

Manage your stress level

Tinnitus can be extremely frustrating and distressing. Some people become stressed or anxious as a result, which can make things worse. You may benefit from learning relaxation methods and ways to combat stress.

If you become depressed or particularly anxious, it would be best to consult a doctor for advice regarding treatment. Relaxation techniques (such as massage, breathing exercises, etc.) or relaxation aids such as lavender or Bach Rescue Remedy may be helpful.

Get enough rest

Symptoms can be worse if you are tired, and if tinnitus prevents you from sleeping well, this can develop into a vicious cycle. Getting a good night’s sleep is important. If we don’t sleep well, we feel drained, our energy is depleted, we feel worn out, can become more easily irritated and tinnitus potentially becomes worse. 

Get enough exercise

Regular, vigorous exercise is important for everyone. Exercise has many benefits: it increases circulation, helps to get rid of toxins, supplies nutrients to the brain and auditory system, and is an excellent means of relieving stress. During exercise, endorphins are released which raise pain thresholds and improve your mood.

Overall, you just feel better after exercising and if done regularly, it also helps you to sleep better at night. Try to exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes once the heart rate starts to increase. Try not to exercise within three hours of bedtime. 

Eat a balanced diet

Make sure you get the nutrients you need (e.g. zinc, vitamin B12 and Magnesium), preferably naturally from food. On the other hand, dietary supplements such as ginkgo biloba, melatonin, and zinc have no proven efficacy and may be potentially harmful.

Reduce or remove aggravating foods/drinks from your diet. You can determine if a food or drink has an effect on the tinnitus by removing it from your diet and later reintroducing it. This way you can figure out which foods and drinks aggravate the tinnitus and which don’t affect it. You may want to try limiting or eliminating these items (which can worsen tinnitus) from your diet to see if it helps:

  • Alcohol 
  • Coffee, colas, and other caffeine-containing products 
  • Salt, artificial sweeteners, and high doses of aspirin can worsen tinnitus which is why it’s best to reduce the intake of these. If you need aspirin for medical reasons, talk to your doctor first.

Stop smoking

Smoking can narrow the blood vessels that supply oxygen to the ears’ sensory cells. Recent research indicates that smokers may have a small increased risk of developing tinnitus. Smoking can also increase your blood pressure.

Specific and extended tinnitus management options

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

TRT, provided by hearing health care professionals, comprises both counseling and sound therapy. The aim of TRT is to retrain your brain to filter out or ignore the tinnitus as irrelevant sound (yes, your brain has that ability!) Through this therapy, people can learn to cope with  tinnitus. In fact, TRT’s success rate in terms of reducing annoyance from tinnitus is higher than 80%. 

If you are struggling with tinnitus, there is hope. With a combination of counseling and sound therapy, those suffering from tinnitus can be sure to find relief. Talk to a hearing health care professional about your situation and get the help you need today.

Written by Robert De Wit

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