Tinnitus is generally described as a ringing in the ears, a sound not produced by any outside sources. However, the noise isn't limited to ringing. Tinnitus symptoms include hearing clicking, buzzing, hissing, roaring, whistling or any number of unusual sounds. Tinnitus sufferers may find it difficult, even impossible, to drown out these noises and focus on the task at hand.
Regardless of what you hear, anyone suffering from tinnitus will know just how distracting and frustrating it can be. Tinnitus sufferers know that the noises they hear are "all in your head", but that doesn't change the fact they do hear these noises. Tinnitus can lead to irritation and mood swings, lack of sleep, stress, and an inability to concentrate.
How can you deal with tinnitus at home? Do these remedies work? More importantly, should you see a doctor?
What Causes Tinnitus?
It's important to recognize that tinnitus itself is not the problem. In fact, it's a symptom. There are a variety of causes of tinnitus. Sometimes it's a sign of hearing loss, a build-up of ear wax in your ear canals, a sign of severe stress, or another problem with your inner ear and auditory nerves.
High blood pressure may also be a cause of tinnitus, or a pounding in the ears. If this is the case, the tinnitus may be relieved by dealing with any blood pressure issues.
While many treatments don't take away the problem of tinnitus, they can prevent it from getting worse, and may help you to alleviate or ignore the symptoms. Learning to control your perception of the sound, or simply look past it, is a key factor in regaining the quality of life you deserve.
Natural Treatments for Tinnitus
Chances are, you'll have noticed some cream or potion advertised to cure tinnitus. "Miracle cures" for tinnitus can be risky. At best, they offer spectacular results but fail to deliver. At worst, they can make your tinnitus worse, leave it improved, or even exacerbate hearing loss.
1. Sound Masking
Silence only provides a vacuum for tinnitus to sound even louder. Once you've focused in on those noises, they can be hard to block out.
A popular treatment for tinnitus that you can use at home is a sound masking device. The purpose of these devices is to provide a distracting yet pleasant sound. Sound masking can help to distract you from tinnitus noise, and gives a relaxing sound to focus on. Masking tinnitus noises with sound is generally known as sound therapy.
Sound masking devices often provide ambient background noise, as well as white noise or nature sounds. Sound therapy apps provide sounds like this, and can be easily downloaded to a phone or mobile device.
What works best to mask tinnitus will vary from person to person. Some people with tinnitus prefer a low level of background noise, whereas others prefer louder sounds. Alternatively, you can use music, headphones, or good old-fashioned television!
If you use music and headphones, creating a specific playlist is a good idea. Compiling your favorite songs is a sure-fire way to help you distract yourself and unwind. Since stress and tension can make tinnitus worse, a good playlist has the dual benefit of helping mask the noises and helping you relax.
2. Ear Protection
Keeping your ears protected from loud noises can go a long way to preventing tinnitus from worsening. Especially if you live in a city, noise is everywhere. Drills, hedge trimmers, or loud concerts can cause hearing loss over time. These sounds can trigger tinnitus or cause it to get worse.
What can you do about these sounds? Surely you can't escape every loud noise you come across?
If you're working from home and your neighbor is having work done on their home, the noise of drills and saws are likely inescapable. Fortunately, you don't have to simply endure it. Wearing earplugs or earmuffs can help to protect you from loud noises, and are highly recommended for people with tinnitus. Hearing protection can also help to prevent hearing loss from getting worse.
Earplugs are cheap to buy and easy to use. If you suffer from tinnitus, why not keep a few packets of earplugs in a drawer, just in case?
3. Meditation and Mindfulness
Stress, anxiety, and tinnitus can all form part of a nasty cycle. Tinnitus can be triggered or worsened by stress, but suffering from tinnitus can also cause stress, anxiety, and depression.
Using meditation and mindfulness to distract from a bodily sensation can be an effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain, and it may also be useful for a person suffering from tinnitus.
Unfortunately, meditation won't take away your tinnitus. However, it can help you to relax and direct your focus elsewhere. Since tinnitus can seriously affect our ability to concentrate, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can help us to recenter ourselves and destress.
Learning to relax via meditation may take a little practice. It's a skill, and takes time to develop. You may not immediately see results. Even so, keep on trying. A few minutes of meditation and yoga a day can quickly become a habit.
4. Relaxation Techniques
Taking time to relax is another good way of dealing with tinnitus. Relaxation can be connected to your meditation and yoga practices, or it can be something separate. "Destressing" can take the form of anything you find that relaxes you, including tried and tested distraction remedies.
- Take a hot bath
- Drink a hot beverage of your choice
- Listen to music, whether a specially chosen playlist or ambient noise
- Do five minutes of yoga or pilates
- Go for a run (preferably with music)
- Mindfully eat a delicious meal
- Watch TV (if this is your thing)
The key is to choose something distracting but not boring. If you don't enjoy soaking in a bath, you may find yourself sitting in silence, hearing ringing again. The point is to focus on self-care and relaxing, rather than specifically drowning out the noise. Relaxation and destressing is something that may help your tinnitus to fade, depending on its cause.
5. Clean Out the Ears
Sometimes, tinnitus can be caused by something as simple as a build-up of ear wax. In that case, you may be able to deal with the problem yourself.
One or two drops of olive oil a week can help soften and move along ear wax. Lie on your side, with your blocked ear facing upward. Very carefully drip one or two drops of oil into your ear canal. Continue to lie on your side for five to ten minutes.
Alternatively, you can use ear drops from a pharmacy. Never put anything inside your ear to dislodge ear wax, not even something as innocent as cotton swabs or Q-tips! If you suspect there's some kind of blockage, or you aren't able to remove ear wax yourself, an ear, nose, and throat specialist can help you with this. They can also help to determine whether there's some internal cause behind your hearing loss and tinnitus.
6. Dealing With Underlying Emotional Stress
We've already discussed how stress can cause tinnitus to appear or get worse. Tinnitus impacts our quality of life, and can even lead to depression and anxiety. Underlying emotional issues can create physical symptoms. While we may be familiar with stomach problems, headaches, and muscle pain caused by emotional stress and anxiety, did you know that depression and anxiety can also cause tinnitus?
If that's the case, using white noise or other forms of sound therapy and hearing protection won't address the underlying problems. Taking care of your mental health is every bit as important as caring for your physical health. In fact, the two are often connected. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be hugely effective in dealing with mental health issues. Seek medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and CBT may be something recommended.
Using home remedies to manage stress - and your tinnitus - can help you to relax and unwind. Masking devices are good for dealing with the symptoms of tinnitus, but never forget to look at the root cause.
7. Wear Hearing Aids
Your doctor may recommend you wear hearing aids. They can greatly help in the treatment of tinnitus, and give you some peace. Turning down your hearing aid may also help you to block out loud noise, which can be very helpful on a day-to-day basis.
8. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Exercise Frequently
Lastly, but certainly not least, keeping a balanced lifestyle can also help to provide some relief from the symptoms of tinnitus. Why? A healthy diet means a healthy body, and also a healthy mind. Regular exercise can help reduce some symptoms of stress and depression. The overall effect of a balanced lifestyle is to keep you healthy and happier. While a good diet and exercise may not directly impact your tinnitus symptoms and hearing loss, a healthy body will provide you with the best chance possible of dealing with your symptoms and getting the best quality of life you can.
When to See a Doctor
Tinnitus can be a scary health condition, especially if you're not used to it. However, it's rarely a sign of anything serious. That's not to say you can't speak to a medical professional about possible relief or treatment options, especially as changes to your blood flow can cause tinnitus, and this may indicate something that needs treatment. Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) may be an option offered to you by your doctor.
In some cases, your tinnitus may be more than just a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Go to an emergency room if:
- You experience sudden hearing loss
- You experience full or partial facial paralysis
- You notice foul-smelling drainage from your eardrums
This could be a symptom of a more serious health condition. However, tinnitus can still seriously impact your life without these symptoms. Some people with tinnitus may experience issues with going about their daily life:
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Problems focusing on work or other issues, which can also impact their concentration when driving a car
- Inability to hear properly
- Stress or anxiety due to the constant ringing in their ears
If home remedies aren't working, it could be time to seek health information from a doctor.
Tinnitus: Should I Be Worried?
Overall, tinnitus is an unpleasant but not worrying condition. While there's no straightforward treatment for tinnitus, there are plenty of treatment options available to manage your condition and give you the best quality of life.
From sound therapy apps to white noise to hearing aids, you can find the right treatments for you. Tinnitus treatment has come a long way in recent decades, and there are plenty of remedies to help you manage.