For many, it’s tough to avoid coming into contact with loud noises. From noisy workplaces to mowing the lawn to rock concerts, after spending enough time in noisy environments without hearing protection, some people may begin to feel as though they’re hearing constant, phantom noises—even in completely silent rooms.
This is known as tinnitus, which is the perception of sound when no noise is present. More commonly referred to as, “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can include high pitched ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, hissing and even swooshing sounds (Mayo Clinic). It’s not an uncommon condition. In fact, nearly 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus (American Tinnitus Association).
There’s no cure for tinnitus—but that doesn’t mean you are powerless. There are certain tinnitus treatments and therapies that can help reduce the discomfort that accompanies this condition
Tinnitus treatments and therapies are not curative, but they are still effective in many cases. Instead, they address the cognitive, emotional and attentional impacts of tinnitus. This includes symptoms that can make the condition feel burdensome, such as hearing difficulties, stress, anxiety, sound sensitivity and social isolation (American Tinnitus Association). Here, we’ve listed five treatments and therapies that may offer relief to those individuals living with tinnitus.
General wellness does not have a direct impact on the causes of tinnitus, but it can provide both physical and emotional benefits that make living with tinnitus easier.
Eating a healthy diet full of whole foods, like lean protein sources, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats can have positive effects on the body.
Experiencing tinnitus symptoms may initially cause feelings of stress. If you’re feeling tension in relation to your tinnitus symptoms, try some physical activity, which has been known to reduce stress levels. Whether you go for a leisurely stroll through nature or hit the gym, exercise can do wonders for stress levels.
Check your medications
According to AARP, more than 590 drugs, herbs and chemicals can trigger tinnitus. These can include common over the counter painkillers and basic antibiotics. Sometimes drug combinations can mix and cause a ringing in the ear, so before you start taking any new medications, be sure to consult your doctor and provide him or her with a full list of your current medications.
If you experience a ringing in the ear after taking new prescription, be sure to tell your doctor immediately.
Sound therapy is the use of external noise in order to alter a person’s perception and/or reaction to tinnitus.
There are several forms of tinnitus management, including:
- Masking essentially covers, or masks, the ringing caused by tinnitus.
- Distraction diverts a patient’s attention from the sounds of tinnitus with the use of an external sound distraction.
- Habituation helps the brain reclassify tinnitus as an unimportant sound that should be ignored.
- Neuromodulation uses special sounds to minimize the hyperactivity thought to be the cause of tinnitus.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), electrical stimulation and hypnosis are also used to treat tinnitus.
As previously mentioned, some patients who experience tinnitus also experience stress, anxiety and depression caused by the burdensome ringing in their ears. This is why behavior therapy is one of the best established and most effective treatments for tinnitus.
Behavioral therapies can be delivered one-on-one or in a group setting and teach patients the skill sets needed to reduce their internal attention to tinnitus. The overall goal of behavioral therapies is to learn relaxation techniques and cognitive skills to replace negative or unhelpful thinking that is ultimately causing a disservice to themselves.
Tinnitus is connected to hearing loss, so improving hearing can often provide tinnitus sufferers relief.
Hearing aids can increase the volume of external noises and sounds to mask the sound of tinnitus, which helps the brain focus on ambient noises and ultimately find some form of relief. Augmenting the sound of an external noise can also increase the amount of auditory stimulation received by the brain, which could potentially be beneficial.
Hearing aids can also improve social interactions and conversations. With greater hearing, individuals who suffer from tinnitus can have better conversations with family, friends and loved ones, which can ultimately diminish frustrations and feelings of social isolation.
Tinnitus is different for everyone who suffers from it, so the best treatment option often depends on the individual and the factors unique to them. However, there are multiple options that can offer relief to tinnitus sufferers, so talk to your doctor or local hearing professional to find a treatment strategy that is best suited for your needs.
If you suffer from tinnitus, a hearing test can help you determine whether you’re suffering from hearing loss. Click below to take a FREE online hearing test and get your results instantly.
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