May 1, 2023

Coping with Tinnitus: Strategies for Managing and Reducing Symptoms

Tinnitus is a common symptom of hearing loss that is often described as a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear.

Tinnitus is a common symptom of hearing loss that is often described as a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear. The experience of Tinnitus can vary wildly from person-to-person. The sound can be constant, intermittent or even rhythmic. According to the US Centers for Disease Control, nearly 15% of Americans suffer from tinnitus in their lives. Regardless of its duration or intensity, tinnitus can significantly impact one's quality of life. 

Although tinnitus can cause distress, there are ways to manage it, and we’re going to look at some of these ways to do so.

How Tinnitus Impacts Your Daily Life

Even moderate levels of tinnitus can affect an individual's ability to rest, work and socialize.

One of the most common ways tinnitus impacts daily life is by interfering with concentration and focus. The constant ringing or buzzing in the ears can make concentrating on tasks or conversations difficult. This can be incredibly challenging in work or academic settings where focus and attention are critical. 

Tinnitus can also impact communication and social interactions. The constant noise can make it difficult to hear others, leading to misunderstandings and miscommunications. It can also cause anxiety and stress in social situations, as individuals with tinnitus may worry about being unable to hear or understand what others are saying.

Sleep is another area of daily life that can be impacted by tinnitus. The persistent noise can hinder the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, resulting in tiredness the following day. This can further exacerbate concentration difficulties and impact your overall quality of life.

Tips For Coping With Tinnitus

Fortunately, through habituation (a mental process that involves decreasing your response to a stimulus through repeated exposure), lasting relief is possible. Here are some ways in which you can manage your symptoms:

1. Practice changing your reaction

When plagued by tinnitus, most people instinctively try to ignore the sound. Then if it is too loud to ignore, anxiety and stress can ensue. But a more effective approach is to focus on the sound and consciously react differently to it. By acknowledging and accepting the presence of the sound, you can gradually detach yourself from the emotional distress it may cause.

2. Sound masking

Utilizing background noise such as nature sounds, music, or podcasts can provide temporary relief by drowning out the sound of tinnitus. Those with remaining hearing can benefit from sound masking by amplifying background noise to minimize the perceived ringing.

3. Breathing techniques

Controlled breathing practices can help reduce anxiety and stress triggered by tinnitus, such as the 4-7-8 breathing exercise (inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale for eight seconds).

4. Distraction

Engage in different activities that can take your attention away from the tinnitus, for example, taking a walk outside while listening to music, or soaking in a hot bath with a podcast playing in the background.

5. Meditation

Incorporating mindfulness and other meditation techniques can help retrain your brain to accept tinnitus, ultimately facilitating the habituation process and providing long-term relief.

6. Physical relaxation

Engage in activities or therapies that help you relax physically, such as having a massage, engaging in progressive muscle relaxation, or using sauna therapy. Reducing physical stress can have a positive impact on tinnitus management.

7. Protect your ears from loud noise

Avoiding exposure to loud sounds or wearing earplugs in noisy environments can prevent tinnitus from worsening.

8. Exercise

Regular workouts can improve your overall well being and release endorphins, which can help alleviate tinnitus-related stress.

9. Jaw muscle relaxation

If your tinnitus is affected by jaw movement, try to relax your jaw muscles through massages or relaxation exercises.

You Still Need To See a Professional

Even if you are able to use the above strategies and manage your condition, It is still important to have your tinnitus assessed by an ENT or audiologist to determine if there is an underlying cause that requires separate treatment. If hearing loss is a factor, hearing aids and medication can sometimes directly improve tinnitus symptoms. In addition to standard medical treatment, specific coping strategies can effectively manage tinnitus.

Managing Your Tinnitus

Managing tinnitus can be challenging, but employing these coping strategies can help you find relief and improve your overall quality of life. If you’re concerned about the effect of Tinnitus in your daily life, you can always talk to us at Audiology & Hearing Services of Charlotte. We’ll find the underlying cause of your tinnitus and offer appropriate treatment. Combined with these coping techniques, our support and guidance can help you navigate your journey towards a more peaceful, less disrupted life. 

Written by
Reviewed by
Dr. Melissa Karp, Au.D.
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Melissa Karp is a board-certified audiologist with special expertise in tinnitus treatment, auditory processing disorder (APD) evaluation, hearing aid fitting and aural rehabilitation.