Finding Ways to Relax with Tinnitus

Finding Ways to Relax with Tinnitus

Do your days and nights often become invaded with a pervasive ringing which refuses to let up? It can be a whoosh, a roar, a ringing, buzz, or even phantom music which seems to come from nowhere but within your own mind and can be incredibly stressful. The technical term for this is tinnitus and it affects a reported 50 million people in the United States alone. While some people’s tinnitus symptoms will come and go, at least 20 million report tinnitus which interrupts their sleep and concentration during the day. Meanwhile, roughly 2 million people report tinnitus symptoms which debilitates them from functioning due to its persistent ringing. The important thing to understand about tinnitus is that while it is almost always a chronic condition, there are some things you can do to lessen your symptoms.

Identifying Patterns of Vulnerability

The most popular methods for tinnitus are those that address the issue in response to its occurrence. This includes methods such as 

  • Sound masking: sounds that either actively cancel out the sound of tinnitus or cover it up. This can be a white noise machine, or even a fan, AC unit or background music.
  • Breathing exercises: This can include meditation, yoga or guided relaxations.
  • Relaxation techniques: Anything to keep you calm from acupuncture, exercise, walks outside or herbs.

However, there are ways that you can prevent occurrences of tinnitus from interrupting your sleep or concentration all together. This starts with identifying the moments when tinnitus comes on. Keep a journal of these moments on your phone or in writing so you can track what happens before a major flare up. These are called tinnitus triggers. A few common examples include:

  • Moments of transition such as:
    • Returning home from work
    • Returning home after time out with friends
    • Bedtime or morning time.
    • Attending meetings in quiet settings
    • Relaxing after a busy day 
  • Moments of stress
  • Time with people who cause you stress such as friends or family members.

The next step is simple– once you have identified your patterns of “vulnerability”, it’s time to make a plan. Create a plan for coping before the event to make it less stressful for you and you may find that you will have less instances of tinnitus in general.

Issues with Anticipating Anxiety 

It’s not just the tinnitus but anticipating the ringing which may be the biggest issue. This is called anticipatory anxiety and is a major culprit in making your tinnitus symptoms more pronounced.

For example, if your tinnitus tends to bother you when you go to sleep, you may find yourself dreading it ahead of time and being more focused on it when it arrives. Because tinnitus is so much of how we perceive it, when stress highlights the ring of tinnitus it can make things so much more severe!

 The goal is that if you can prevent the difficult moment from occurring for multiple days in a row, the anticipatory anxiety may possibly fade, and can start to break the cycle of stress and suffering all together.

Creating Your Preventative Coping Routine

It’s not really what the coping routine is as long as it works and as long as you are consistent about it. Remember that the goal is breaking the cycle of anxiety around your tinnitus.

Here are some coping techniques to consider to help you relax and reduce anxiety around tinnitus: 

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Taking a hot bath
  • Masking sounds
  • Self-massage, such as myofascial release with a foam roller or tennis ball
  • Sauna/steam room
  • Getting some exercise 
  • Spending time outside 

Different techniques work for different people so it may take some experimentation to find what works for you.

Treating Hearing Loss

While not everyone with hearing loss has tinnitus, around 90 percent of people with tinnitus have hearing loss. If you’ve been finding that you’ve been having tinnitus more and more often it may be time to consider the reality of hearing loss in your life if you haven’t already. Addressing hearing can not only help you hear clearer, but reduce stress related to communication barriers and lack of awareness of your environment. To find out more about how to manage your tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with us today!