Tinnitus: What It Is Like Living With The Condition
Tinnitus is not the most well-known condition, despite many people experiencing a mild form of it at some point in their lives. It is best described as a noise, often ringing, that is heard despite there being no outside source of the sound. The mildest version can be easily ignored, but in its more severe iterations, it can cause significant problems with daily life.
What is tinnitus?
Most often, tinnitus is associated with a ringing noise in the ears even though the world around you is quiet. It can also manifest as buzzing, clicking, hissing, whooshing, humming, roaring or other sounds. Sometimes it is in one ear, and sometimes it is in both. It may even appear in the head itself rather than the ears. For most people, this is an occasional thing and not a source of concern. For others, it can damage hearing and even lead to mental health problems like depression.
There is no single definitive cause of tinnitus. Sometimes it is associated with wider hearing loss, ear infections, or a buildup of earwax. Ménière's disease can cause tinnitus, among other symptoms. Tinnitus can even be associated with multiple sclerosis, diabetes or various thyroid disorders, in addition to being a response to certain medications, changing blood pressure, or stress. You may be more likely to experience tinnitus if you're regularly exposed to loud noises, such as if you are a musician or work with heavy machinery.
Impact of tinnitus
In many cases, tinnitus is a minor annoyance at most and will disappear as quickly as it arrives. In more severe cases, however, it can make it hard to concentrate and even interfere with your sleep. Tiredness and irritation can damage relationships and make it difficult to maintain a job. Some people report experiencing depression or anxiety in relation to their tinnitus, which has a further negative impact on their overall quality of life. If tinnitus is part of another condition, you may also need to manage those symptoms at the same time, which can increase your level of stress and can be more difficult when trying to ignore tinnitus-related noises.
If your tinnitus is interfering with your ability to live your life, you may need to talk to your doctor. Sometimes symptoms can be alleviated by treating the underlying cause, such as cleaning excess earwax or antibiotics for an ear infection. If it is caused by hearing loss, a hearing aid may help. You may need to see a specialist if your tinnitus is part of a wider condition.
For cases of tinnitus that cannot be treated, there are still steps you can take to manage the symptoms. Tips for improving your quality of sleep are similar to those for people without tinnitus - try to establish a bedtime routine that allows you to wind down before going to bed, cut back on caffeine and generally try to avoid stressful situations. Things like yoga and mindfulness may be able to aid relaxation.
Silence can make it difficult to ignore tinnitus, while particularly loud noises can make it worse. Some sounds of more moderate volume, however, can suppress or distract from the noise. Sometimes a masking device or white noise machine may be recommended, or you may just want to have music playing quietly in the background.
There is no medication to treat tinnitus itself, but it may be able to help with related conditions such as anxiety or depression. There is also some evidence that certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients cannot just improve general health but may relieve some of the specific causes and symptoms of tinnitus. This is the aim of supplements like the Ear-ring Relief Dietary Tinnitus Supplement.
Talking about tinnitus can also relieve associated stress. This may mean joining a group for tinnitus sufferers, or it may mean counseling to teach you new ways to think about and deal with your condition. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to sometimes be effective in managing tinnitus, and it can also be used to alleviate associated depression and anxiety. Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is a tinnitus-specific treatment that combines counseling with sound therapy and possibly masking devices to make tinnitus less distressing.
Sometimes tinnitus can be part of a more serious condition, but even when it has no obvious cause, it can still be a source of stress and aggravation, leading to mental health problems. Luckily, there are a range of measures that may make symptoms less severe and help you manage your condition.