Coping with tinnitus

June 30, 2014

Bruit dans l'oreille

Tinnitus is the perception of sound or noise (whistling, buzzing, ringing, etc.) in one ear, both ears or the centre of the head when no external sound source is present. This condition affects 8% of the population. Some people with tinnitus are able to get used to it and ignore it, while others find it bothersome. There are different ways of coping with tinnitus which focus on changing the reaction to it and increasing tolerance.

Sound enrichment

Sound enrichment involves adding noise to the sound environment, to avoid complete silence and draw attention away from the tinnitus. Sometimes, just turning on a fan or dehumidifier or opening a window can help. Using an adjustable sound generator such as a hearing aid or a MP3 player (in the absence of hearing loss) is also an option. It is important to choose a pleasant noise that does not trigger any negative emotions. The sound volume should not be too high. The tinnitus must always be slightly audible, to allow the progression toward habituation. Hearing aids in the presence of hearing loss can also serve as sound generators. They can reduce tinnitus disturbance, which is a problem for many people with a hearing impairment.

Relaxation and stress management techniques

Breathing and visualization exercises can help those with tinnitus relax. Reducing stress can have an indirect effect on tinnitus disturbance

A healthy lifestyle

Avoiding stressors (e.g. cigarettes, caffeine), adopting healthy sleep habits, eating well (lower salt, sugar and fat intake), exercising and engaging in hobbies can help considerably with tinnitus management.

Medication

Anti-depressants, anxiolytics and anti-insomnia medications are the main drugs prescribed. They can help with stress, anxiety and sleep, and therefore have an indirect impact on tinnitus. However, they can cause dependency in the long term, so patients should use them with caution and follow their doctors’ advice.

Alternative methods 

These methods, such as hypnosis, homeopathy and acupuncture, are somewhat controversial, but they can improve well-being and reduce the intolerance to tinnitus in some people.

If you are finding it difficult to live with tinnitus, consult an audiologist at one of the Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinics for a hearing test. The audiologist will then guide you toward the appropriate resources in your area.

References:
  • Shargorodsky, J., G.C. Curhan, and W.R. Farwell. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Tinnitus among US Adults.” American Journal of Medicine 123 (2010): 711-718.
  • Sweetow, R.W., and J. Henderson Sabes. “An Overview of Common Procedures for the Management of Tinnitus Patients.” The Hearing Journal 63, 11 (2010): 11-15.
  • Centore L.S. “A Guide to Pharmacologic Management of Target Symptoms of Severe Tinnitus.” The Hearing Journal 63, 11 (2010): 36-42.