Anyone who starts to experience tinnitus or suspects their hearing is damaged, should make an appointment to see their GP. Tinnitus is rarely an indication of a serious disorder, but it is wise to see your doctor if you think you have it.
Usually, your GP will refer you to an audiologist or Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department. Here a specialist will be able to rule out more serious middle ear problems and conduct a hearing test to determine whether the problem is linked to a hearing loss. Although tinnitus has no simple 'cure', there are strategies for reducing its impact. A hearing therapist or tinnitus clinic will be able to advise you of these. Other coping strategies include:
Talking to someone
People around you may not understand what tinnitus is and how it might affect you, so might not be able to give you the type of support you need. It can be really helpful to talk to someone who has experience of tinnitus.
Meeting people who have been through the same things you are going through right now can be very helpful. There are Tinnitus Support Groups around the country, including in Suffolk and Norfolk. Not only can you pick up tips from others, but you can gain (and give) support simply by sharing your story with people who understand because they’ve been there themselves.
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) also offers a confidential tinnitus helpline.
At The Hearing Care Centre we also have specially trained Tinnitus Counsellors offer Tinnitus Management Consultations which offer an insight into your tinnitus and how best to manage it.
It is quite common to feel anxious and afraid when you first experience tinnitus. By relaxing more, you may be able to feel less stressed and so notice your tinnitus less. Learning to relax is probably one of the most useful things you can do to help yourself.
A really easy way to relax is to find somewhere peaceful and just slow your breathing down (feel free to have some sound on in the background). You can take a few slow deep breaths and pay full attention to the feeling of the breath entering your body, filling your lungs and leaving your body. When we use deep breathing to relax, we feel calmer and more able to manage the tinnitus, and often don’t notice it as much!
Using a hearing aid
Loss of hearing is often an unnoticeable and gradual process, and many people are surprised when they are told that they have a hearing loss. If you have hearing loss, using hearing aids can be helpful for tinnitus because they are restoring what you can’t otherwise hear.
Tinnitus is usually more noticeable in a quiet environment. It’s a bit like candles on a birthday cake – in the lights, the candles aren’t very bright but if you turn the lights off, the candles seem much brighter. With tinnitus, when there is other sound, it doesn’t seem that loud, but when you turn all the other sound off, the tinnitus seems much more noticeable.
A lot of people have found that using background sound helps them – this can be a radio, music, or using natural sounds. People are really good at figuring out ways of making things better for themselves and you might already be aware that you generally don’t notice the tinnitus as much when there is background noise. By using sound at other times, you’re just using other ways of doing what you already know to be helpful.
Addressing sleep problems
People who live with tinnitus might have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. In order to sleep well, our bodies and our minds need to be relaxed. Worrying about the tinnitus, or worrying about how much sleep you’re getting (or missing out on), is unhelpful and will only make it more difficult to sleep. Most people with tinnitus sleep well and their tinnitus is no different from those who do not sleep well. People who have tinnitus and sleep poorly tend to worry more at night than people with tinnitus who sleep well. Working through problems during waking hours is better than in the middle of the night when you have nothing else to occupy you.
It helps to make use of relaxation techniques to prepare the body for sleep. Once your body and mind are relaxed, sleep will come a bit easier.
Having some soft sound in the bedroom can help some people with tinnitus sleep better. The type of sound you use is up to you – as long as it is pleasant or neutral.
Visit our online shop to see our range of tinnitus management products - ideal for helping you to fall alseep.
If you are referred to a specialist tinnitus clinic, and your tinnitus is particularly troublesome, you will be introduced to more formal or structured ways of managing tinnitus. Most centres use a combination of approaches.
You may come across some terms before, or hear them when you get there, and it helps to have some understanding of what these terms are...