Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022

Self-help for Tinnitus

This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022. Tinnitus is a sensation of a sound in the head or ears which is not due to an external sound source. Recent estimates suggest that at least 1 in 8 people in the UK experience persistent tinnitus; that is almost 7.5 million people. Although the majority of these people are able to lead their lives unaffected by the presence of tinnitus, some people find that the tinnitus impacts significantly on their quality of life.

Whilst there is currently no treatment that can make tinnitus disappear, there are a multitude of self-help techniques that can be applied to reduce the effect that distressing tinnitus can have on some people’s lives. For Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022, we will discuss some of these below:

1. Education

For many people who begin to experience persistent tinnitus it can be a worrying time, as they are often unsure of what has caused the sound, what it means, and whether it will go away. Understanding what tinnitus is, what can cause it to develop, and the factors which can cause it to have an impact on someone’s life, is an important first step to reducing the distress sometimes associated with tinnitus. A great place to start if you have specific questions about tinnitus is the British Tinnitus Association website. Their sister site Take on Tinnitus has been designed specifically to give information and advice to those who have just begun to experience tinnitus and their friends and families.

2. Sound

Most people with tinnitus find that they are more aware of it when they are in a quiet environment, and less aware of it when they are somewhere where there is a bit more noise. Most people with tinnitus find it helpful to use background sounds when they are in quiet places, to make their tinnitus less obvious. This can be as simple as opening the window to let some sound in, or putting some music or a TV programme on quietly in the background. However, there are also some mobile phone apps designed specifically to provide background nature sounds to help distract from tinnitus. At North East Hearing & Balance we like to use the Resound Tinnitus Relief app, but there are many others out there. The aim is not to try and use sound to drown out or “mask” the tinnitus, but just to provide extra distractions for the brain so that it focuses in less on the tinnitus.

3. Relaxation

Tinnitus is often worsened by stress and anxiety. The more stressed we get, the louder the tinnitus will appear. Relaxation is a good way of combating stress and anxiety. Whilst “passive” relaxation such as watching the TV whilst slouching on the sofa may help to an extent, “active” relaxation, such as specific muscle relaxation or breathing control exercises, are a much more effective way of reducing the physical effects of stress and preventing amplification of the tinnitus. Such exercises take practice, but can have a gradual and significant positive effect on tinnitus. Where possible, identifying and reducing sources of stress and anxiety in your life can also be a helpful way of making it easier to relax.

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that recent research has shown can be particularly effective in reducing the distress sometimes associated with tinnitus. Much of the anxiety that people have about tinnitus is about the past (“what has caused this?”) or the future (“is it always going to be like this?”). Mindfulness meditation encourages people to focus in on what they are experiencing in the here and now, and less on the past and future. In this way it has been shown to be an effective way of reducing negative and anxious thoughts about health problems, including tinnitus. Like relaxation exercises, mindfulness meditation takes a lot of practice and it is most helpful if you are taught these techniques by a qualified instructor; you will often find that there are local mindfulness courses available.

Many people are able to effectively self-manage their tinnitus using some combination of the techniques described above, however if you would like to discuss your tinnitus in more detail or would like to find out about the more in-depth tinnitus management options available then please contact us for a tinnitus assessment appointment.

For more information about Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022, and to find out how you can support tinnitus research, please visit the British Tinnitus Association website.