There are several things you CAN do and several that you SHOULD NOT do when you are trying to alleviate some of the aggravation of tinnitus. As discussed under Help! What Can I Do From Here?, you should have a medical evaluation to rule out possible underlying medical contributors to your tinnitus. For the immediate present the following may be helpful.
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises. It is well documented that exposure to intense sounds can often be the underlying cause of tinnitus as well as an aggravator to current tinnitus. If you cannot avoid loud sounds, protect your hearing with earplugs or noise dampening muffs. These protectors are available through your hearing care professional as well as in the power tool section of many hardware stores and at hunting goods stores.
- Caffeine (from coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, tea) and nicotine can aggravate tinnitus for many people. Try to cut back on these stimulants as much as possible. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting may increase your stress level which will increase the aggravation of your tinnitus until the nicotine is completely free of your system.
- Improve your blood circulation through daily exercise and a decrease in your salt intake. If you have not exercised in the past consult with your physician before engaging in strenuous physical activity.
- Stress can aggravate tinnitus. To the extent possible, avoid those things that add stress to your life. Learn techniques of relaxation and use them when you feel stressed.
- Fatigue can increase the perception of and the aggravation of tinnitus. Be sure you are receiving adequate rest.
- Avoid times of total silence. The presence of some sound in the background reduces the contrast between the level of your tinnitus and the silence of your environment. Just as a candle in a well-lit room does not appear as bright as it does in the dark, your tinnitus will appear softer, and less annoying, when you avoid silence.
- Do not monitor your tinnitus. Keeping your tinnitus foremost in your mind creates higher levels of aggravation, which in turn increases the perception of the intensity of your tinnitus, which in turn brings it to a higher state within your conscious thought. You must work hard to break this cycle. It is not easy, but it can be done. Try not to think about your tinnitus. If asked about your tinnitus, respond and change theject. Don’t talk about it with others. Work to put other thoughts in your mind. Just as you can choose not to “listen” to the sound of the fan from your computer or the voices from the TV in the other room, you can choose not to “listen” to your tinnitus. It is not easy, but with practice you will find that you are paying less attention to it.
- Think positive statements only. Do not think, “Why me?” Rather think, “I am doing something positive for my tinnitus. It’s going to get better!”
What Can I Do From Here?
The first, and vital step in attaining tinnitus relief is determining that there is no pathological condition underlying the symptom of your tinnitus. A good starting point is with your physician. A variety of medical conditions can be at the root cause of tinnitus including hypertension, high cholesterol, thyroid abnormalities, anemia, diabetes and a variety of prescription and non-prescription medications. Consultation with your physician should aim at ruling out or attending to these potential contributors to tinnitus.
If following consultation with your physician, no immediate causes are identified for your tinnitus, you should schedule an audiologic and otologic evaluation to identify any ear specific pathologies that may be present. Following any audiologic (hearing) evaluation, if no ear disorders are identified other than a possible cochlear hearing loss (at the level of the hair cells as discussed under pathophysiology of tinnitus), the audiologist may conduct a tinnitus interview to determine the characteristics of your tinnitus and its effects on your life style. At that point, appropriate recommendations can be given for the management of your tinnitus.