An introduction to self-help
Tinnitus is a common condition affecting up to 10% of the population.
Although it is not usually a serious condition, if you suffer from tinnitus, it is best to consult your doctor in order to check if a treatable underlying cause such as an ear infection can be found responsible for the symptoms.
For most people with tinnitus however, no specific underlying health condition can be found. Treatment will focus on helping you cope better with the condition, including the use of noise generators to mask the noise you hear.
Whatever the case, anyone with tinnitus will benefit from a number of self-help measures. These will help you combat symptoms, allowing you to cope better and improve your lifestyle.
There are several useful techniques you can use to help you cope better with tinnitus:
- Make a note of every time you experience tinnitus and try to pinpoint the environments and activities you are involved with when tinnitus is not so apparent. Establishing a pattern of when tinnitus comes about can help you avoid these triggers
- It has been shown that (as with many health conditions) your attitude is crucial in determining how you deal with the symptoms. Those with a positive attitude find it easier to manage the condition
- Stress has been shown to trigger symptoms. Regular deep breathing or relaxation exercises can help people de-stress and unwind, reducing severity of symptoms
- Listening to relaxing music also helps to reduce stress with the added benefit that music can mask the noise of tinnitus
- Having background noise such as the television, radio or music will make tinnitus less obvious and distracting, leading you to become less aware of your symptoms. It is important that background noise is not too loud however, as this may damage your hearing and worsen your tinnitus
- Tinnitus may prevent you from having a good night’s sleep, either by making it difficult for you to fall asleep or by disturbing sleep. It is important to remember the general rules for ensuring a good night’s sleep (see section below on getting a good night’s sleep)
- Wear the correct ear protectors. If tinnitus has been caused by loud sounds such as a pneumatic drill at work, hairdryers or loud music, make sure you buy or are supplied with the correct hearing protection devices, such as earplugs or earmuff protectors. For musicians and DJ’s it is important that they consider wearing musician’s earplugs to prevent tinnitus developing after years of listening to loud music.
What help is available for tinnitus sufferers?
It can be difficult to know where to turn to if you are suffering from tinnitus. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone with your symptoms - therapy groups and professional advice can help:
- Attend a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist. This is a type of therapy that examines thoughts, attitudes and behaviour in an approach to treat tinnitus, helping you cope better with your condition
- Talk to a tinnitus professional (phone the British Tinnitus Association) who can make you more aware of the symptoms and causes of tinnitus
- Join a tinnitus counselling group if one is available in your area
- Pillow speakers may be useful when you are trying to sleep. They are designed to fit under your pillow so only you can hear the music. Listening to relaxing music may help you drift off to sleep
- Maskers are noise generators and worn in the ear like a hearing aid. They mask tinnitus by producing sounds that distract you from the noise of tinnitus.
Certain lifestyle factors, in particular your diet, may cause or worsen your symptoms. Give yourself the best chance of reducing your symptoms by:
- Keeping alcohol intake to a minimum
- Decreasing your caffeine intake. This means avoiding certain soft drinks and chocolate as well as the obvious coffee and tea
- Cheese and excessive salt consumption have also been shown to aggravate tinnitus
- Exercising regularly to help your circulatory system. This does not mean going for a 10 mile run every day – a 30 minute walk is useful exercise for most of us.
Tips to get a better night’s sleep
One of the big problems with tinnitus is that it can plague you the most in the quietness and darkness of your bedroom and is likely to prevent you from enjoying your slumber. The following tips may help you to drift into dreamland:
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol during the day and especially when approaching your bedtime
- Get into the habit of doing some light exercise daily, but not in the evening. Reserve the evening for relaxing activities
- Ensure you wind down close to bedtime by doing some relaxation exercises, reading a book or listening to calming music
- Try not to think about things that are worrying you just before or at bedtime
- Don’t get annoyed when you can’t drift off to sleep. Do something you find relaxing and try again.
Follow the link for more tips on getting a better night’s sleep.