Tinnitus is the perception of a ringing in the ear. While common – nearly 20 percent of people in the U.S. experience this phantom ringing – the treatment options are limited. More people are turning to unconventional treatments, like meditation, to find relief.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus sufferers hear sounds that are not present. These sounds vary person to person but are often described as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, roaring, humming or clicking. The noises can vary in pitch, can be heard in one or both ears and may be present all the time or come and go. Some experience severe enough tinnitus that sounds interfere with their ability to concentrate.
Many health conditions include tinnitus in their list of possible symptoms. The most common causes include:
- Hearing loss
- Exposure to loud noise
- Earwax blockage
- Ear bone changes
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorder
- Head or neck injuries
- Acoustic neuroma
- Eustachian tube dysfunction
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
Determining the cause of your symptoms is essential when putting together a treatment plan.
Your audiologist will perform a series of hearing exams, a physical exam, a movement test and may even order imaging tests. Unfortunately for most, the cause is never determined.
When the cause is either unknown or cannot be corrected, tinnitus treatment is focused on managing the tinnitus symptoms to make them less noticeable. Treatment options include:
White Noise Machines
These machines produce environmental sounds such as ocean waves or falling rain. Some find success with items they already have around their home like fans and air conditioners.
Nearly 90 percent of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss. Turning your hearing aid up can help drown out the ringing in the ear.
These devices are worn in the ear like a hearing aid and emit a continuous, low-level white noise to help suppress tinnitus.
A wearable device is programmed to produce tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of your tinnitus. With the addition to counseling, this device is able to help you stop focusing on the tinnitus.
While drugs cannot treat tinnitus, some can help reduce the severity of symptoms or complications. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline, as well as Xanax, have shown some success.
For some, lifestyle changes can make tinnitus symptoms less bothersome. This involves avoiding irritants, covering up the noise, managing stress and reducing alcohol consumption.
When other treatments fail to provide adequate relief, many look to alternative treatments, such as meditation.
The process is simple: sit in a comfortable and upright posture and relax. Breathe in and out and try to clear your mind of any thoughts. There are three rules:
- Don’t move. Stillness tells your body that everything is fine.
- Don’t scratch. If you notice a distraction, acknowledge the discomfort but sit with it. The uncomfortable feeling will often subside on its own.
- Don’t engage with your thoughts. Try to clear your mind. If thoughts come through, notice them but don’t interact.
This last step is the hardest. Counting breaths can keep your mind busy so it can rest. Thinking is normal. If you find yourself doing so, notice your thoughts and work to clear your mind again.
It may take a few sessions for you to see any difference in your tinnitus. Soon you will be able to relax into stillness. And even in a silent room, your tinnitus will fade away.
Now is the time to do something about your tinnitus. Contact the experts at Hearing Advancement Center to learn more about the available treatments.