Tinnitus is known most often as a “ringing” in the ears. However, it can manifest as a range of different sounds, including clicking, whooshing, roaring, sirens, an electronic whine, a single monotonous tone, two dissonant tones resonances, or something entirely different.
Most often, tinnitus results from damage to the sensitive hairs and other parts involved in the hearing process. Still, it can also result from natural hearing loss or problems with the circulatory system, including increased blood pressure. While in many cases, it can be temporary, fading or disappearing entirely within a day or a few weeks, if it lasts longer than six months, the ailment is likely permanent, and treatment for tinnitus becomes necessary.
While many people with tinnitus live normal lives, able to tune out the ever-present sound, some cases are worse than others, and it can cause a significant decrease in quality of life. The condition can even increase stress and anxiety, leading to depression and other similar mental wellness conditions.
Medical advances are continually finding new ways to solve modern health problems, and researchers are working on new ways to treat tinnitus. In the meantime, many natural solutions can alleviate the symptoms, improving the circumstances for those suffering from its effects.
Reduce Your Stress
Being under a lot of stress can increase the body’s blood flow, which, in turn, can make tinnitus more noticeable. Other times, simply focusing on the condition can enhance the sound to your ears, so to improve the situation, distract yourself with activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing.
While exercise and healthy eating play a role in reducing stress, you can also try massage therapy, meditation, yoga, deep breathing techniques, fun hobbies, warm baths, or hot springs, and ensure that you get enough sleep. Finding ways to find peace and enjoy yourself will help take your mind off the problem while helping keep the annoying sound to a minimum.
Much like stress, smoking has the adverse effect of increasing your heart rate. The increased blood pressure makes tinnitus more obvious, not to mention all the other health risks associated with the habit. Smoking can even cause tinnitus, as nicotine can harm auditory nerve transmitters, and the smoke can irritate the inner ear and the Eustachian tube.
Clean Out Your Ears
Sometimes the cause of tinnitus can be as simple as a significant buildup of earwax within the ear canal. This occurrence, called occlusion, can even cause hearing loss. If you can remove the offending earwax, sometimes symptoms of tinnitus fade or disappear entirely. The problem lies in doing so safely.
If you go at your earwax with a Q-tip or another elongated object, you risk causing damage to the inner ear or even pushing the earwax further into the ear. Doing so can make the problem worse and even cause new damage. If you believe that eliminating excess earwax will help with your tinnitus, research safe methods for the extraction or consult a medical professional.
Sometimes wax removal is as simple as adding a softening agent or warm water into your ear with an eyedropper, holding your head to the side, so it enters your ear canal, and giving it a little time to work. However, consult with a professional before trying this solution if you suspect you may have any inner ear damage.
Try Sound Masking
Tinnitus is at its worst in an environment of complete silence, making it difficult to sleep at night. Sometimes the solution is as simple as turning on a fan to create a form of white noise. When there are other sounds to draw your attention, tinnitus tends to fade into the background and become less noticeable.
When your tinnitus flares up, consider listening to music or playing some form of white noise on headphones to give your brain new sounds to focus on. White noise consists of ambient sounds from daily life that are generally repetitive and can be soothing, depending on your selection. For example, television static can be considered white noise, but so can the sounds of a fireplace crackling, rain, a waterfall, or the hum of a space heater.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Sometimes a licensed therapist can prove effective in helping adapt to tinnitus. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, specializes in helping you find new ways to approach problems by modifying your behavior and ways of thinking through a process called cognitive restructuring. It can help to turn negative thoughts into positive ones while making it easier to tolerate the symptoms.
Other forms of therapy may also help deal with tinnitus, including mindfulness-based stress reduction, tinnitus retraining therapy, tinnitus activity treatment, and acceptance commitment therapy. Each method approaches treatment differently, some focusing on helping reduce symptoms and others assisting patients in living with them.
Avoid Loud Noises
After listening to music or being in an environment with prolonged sound for an extended period of time and moving into a quiet environment, tinnitus can seem particularly loud. This does not necessarily mean that the symptoms have worsened, although if the sounds were loud, there is certainly the potential for further damage to your hearing.
The culprit is likely the transition itself, as there was substantial noise before, and now there is considerably less, drawing the brain’s attention to the tinnitus. While many people can ignore the phantom sound completely when there is background noise, once it has earned their attention again, it can be difficult to shake.
Sound masking techniques can improve this situation, of course, but prevention is often the best solution. If you can avoid being around loud or prolonged noises, you are less likely to suffer tonal enhancement afterward.
The Bottom Line
Tinnitus can be annoying, causing mental health problems for many who face it. However, most people who experience symptoms have found ways to regain their quality of life and reduce these phantom sounds to minor background noises that they can ignore.
To help do the same, work to reduce your stress levels, avoid loud noises, and try sound masking to help your brain filter new sounds. In addition, techniques such as cleaning your ears, participating in cognitive behavior therapy, and cleaning out your ears can improve tinnitus and help you adapt until the medical field finds new and better solutions.