5 key methods for coping with tinnitus
A message from the British Tinnitus Association
We're proud to say the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) supports what we are doing at #AllEars. In correspondence with our objective, the BTA's vision is a world where no one suffers from tinnitus. They provide information, support and research funds to make this vision a reality.
BTA helpline - 0800 018 0527
Relaxation & meditation
It is quite common to feel anxious and afraid when you first experience tinnitus. By relaxing more, you may be able to feel less stressed and so notice your tinnitus less. Among the different types of relaxation are yoga, tai-chi and meditation.
We are all different and you may find you prefer one type of relaxation over another. You may find a class that teaches a type you like. However, you may not be able to get to classes or you may just prefer to do something yourself. Using some simple techniques regularly may help you to improve your quality of life and make a real difference to living with tinnitus. It does take practice to develop good relaxation techniques, and what may help one day, may not do so the next – so don’t give up if at first it does not seem to help.
Some basic techniques you can use are progressive muscle relaxation, visualisation and meditation. These are explained further here.
Managing the stress -
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
If you have a high level of stress there is a greater chance that you will be troubled by your tinnitus.
The way people respond to tinnitus varies greatly. For some people, it is considered the biggest stress in their life whilst others will respond to it in a neutral, calm way. You might suppose that this difference is due to different people having different tinnitus. Instead the evidence suggests that the reason one person is stressed and another not is because they have different ideas or beliefs about tinnitus.
One way of understanding the relationship between tinnitus and stress is by considering the role of attention. Every minute of every day we receive hundreds of pieces of information from the environment. It is not possible for us to pay attention to all this information at one time. Fortunately, we have a system that allows us to select what we attend to at any given moment. The rest of the information is filtered out. The information that is filtered out is usually repetitive or unimportant. So for example, if we consider the ticking of a clock, we will very often not react to it and may forget that it is there unless we consciously draw our attention to it. In other words, we will get used to it or habituate.
If, however, information is seen as threatening and it leads to stress arousal then you will have difficulty filtering it out, or habituating, to it. In fact, if information is seen as emotionally important and your body is on alert then the opposite of habituation may happen; you may become more sensitive to the perceived threat. All this is relevant to tinnitus. If you see your tinnitus as a threat to your wellbeing your attention will focus on it.
You can manage the stress by making changes in one or more of the three areas of the CBT model: thoughts, physical reactions and behaviour. Find out more about how to do so here.
Some people find that using background sound can be very helpful for reducing the intrusiveness of their tinnitus. Listening to the radio or playing music are common ways of doing this.
Some people prefer to use more natural sounds, like a clock ticking, or a fan blowing gently and find that using these sounds through the night can be helpful. If you prefer natural sounds, you can purchase CDs or table-top devices that allow you to play sounds such as the waves of the sea or rainfall.
Sound enrichment can be provided by:
- environmental sound (such as having a window open)
- a CD or mp3 download or the radio
- a smartphone App
- bedside/table-top sound generators
- a wearable sound generator
You can find out more about the various methods of sound therapy here.
Many artists supporting All Ears advocate the use of sound to aid sleep and relax in quiet environments. Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with artist interviews.
Talking to someone
It can often be very helpful to talk to someone who understands how you are feeling, who can reassure you about any anxieties you may have, and answer your questions. We can provide details of self-help groups and contacts in the UK, and we also run a helpline on 0800 018 0527. Most of the people who run groups or are contacts have tinnitus themselves and have been helping people with the condition for a long time. Even if you don't want to take part in group activities, it can be a comfort to know there is someone you can contact.
By being open and talking with friends, family and common sufferers, you will find it much easier to cope with tinnitus. Make sure to head to Your stories to hear about others’ struggles with tinnitus and share your story to help out.
I can personally vouch for the advice given regarding wearing music-specialised earplugs. My tinnitus has improved since I started wearing them, so I’d recommend them to anyone who’s exposed to loud music as a way of life.
Essentially, music-specialised earplugs are either based upon an earplug incorporating a “tuned” mechanical filter set to provide a flat frequency response and some reduction in intensity, or a fusion of hearing protection and digital hearing aid technology.
A wide range of technical ear protection products are available. Effective earplugs will reduce the overall level of sound whilst maintaining an even balance across the sound spectrum. This means that you can still hear everything clearly, although the overall sound level is reduced. The greater the number of decibels (dBs) of attenuation by the ear plugs, the better overall protection they offer.
Eddy Temple-Morris, Plug'em Ambassador, DJ, Producer and Presenter