Sound Therapy Can Change Your Perception of Tinnitus

For many people, especially those who are new to tinnitus, the subconscious mind perceives tinnitus as a threat. Like any other threat, we tend to focus on it as long as the threat exists.

By changing how we perceive tinnitus, we eliminate the threat and allow or minds to focus on more important sounds, thoughts or tasks.

We all know that tinnitus is more prevalent in a quiet environment and less prevalent in the presence of environmental sound.

By introducing pleasant sounds when our tinnitus is most noticeable, we can reduce our perception of tinnitus. A good test to see if this approach can be beneficial to you is to pay notice to your tinnitus while you are in the shower. If the noise of the running water reduces your ability to hear the tinnitus, you are a good candidate for sound therapy.

I particularly find good results while listening to soft background music such as smooth jazz while I work at my desk. I also enjoy some quiet time sitting by a fountain or listening to the chirping of birds in my back yard. In addition, I find the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore to be very pleasant and relaxing.

There are many good sound therapy products available such as CD’s, MP3′s or YouTube videos.

The key point is to find ways to change your perception of tinnitus. Do some experimenting to find things that work for you. In the beginning, it could help you find some immediate relief and over time could be your key to eventually eliminating tinnitus as an adversity in your daily life.

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Go for a Walk Today

Have you noticed how your whole mindset changes when you go out for a leisurely walk?

You are suddenly outdoors. You are immediately focused on the weather and your surroundings. You notice things during a walk that normally would not even register on your mind.

As you walk, your surroundings are constantly changing. Depending on where you are, you may see and hear the birds, a plane flying overhead, the rustling of the water in a slow moving stream, kids laughing and playing in their front yard. Each step you take brings a new perspective.

As you walk, your mind will tend to wander. Let it happen. That is one of the miraculous benefits of walking. Without even trying, your mind will go to work for you. It will take you on fantastic journeys through your fantasies and solve some of your biggest problems. All for free.

In addition to the psychological benefits, you will also enjoy the physical benefits that walking can offer. You will get your body moving, your blood pumping and your heart rate up. You are burning calories, getting fresh air and exercise, building your endurance and strengthening your heart.

Make it a regular part of your daily routine and your mind and body will thank you for it.

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A Hearing Aid May Provide Tinnitus Relief

For many people, correcting their hearing loss with a hearing aid relieves their tinnitus. Hearing aids amplify external sounds allowing the user to hear things that they would not normally hear as well as being able to hear easier and more clearly.

When this background noise is amplified, the loudness or prominence of tinnitus is thereby reduced considerably, or to more tolerable levels.

It is important to use an open fit mold type so as not to block the ear canal. Blocking the ear canal will generally make the tinnitus worse.

Most hearing aids sold will come with a limited trial period. If you are not satisfied with the hearing aid during this trial period, you can return it for a refund.

If your audiologist does not offer a free trial period, find one who will.

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Adjust Your Attitude About Tinnitus

“It is the disposition of the thought that altereth the nature of the thing.”
John Lyly, Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (1579)
 

 Think back on the last period of time that you were able to forget about your tinnitus. It may have been a brief moment, a few minutes or a couple of hours.

Now, think about what you were doing at the time. Chances are you were engrossed in a positive experience. You might have been working on an important project, helping someone, engaged in a conversation, playing with your kids or grandkids, working out, listening to some good music or reading a great book. Whatever it was, you focused on the experience and not your tinnitus.

Now, think back on the last period of time that your tinnitus really bothered you. What was going on during this period? Were you stressed out, tired, trying to unwind during a hard day at work, feeling sorry for yourself? All of these things will make your tinnitus louder, so think of it in a more positive light. When your tinnitus is really bad, let it be a reminder that something is out of balance in your life. Slow down, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and seek out some of those positive experiences that make your life enjoyable.

We all know or have met people less fortunate than us. Let tinnitus be a reminder of how lucky we are to be alive, about the people we love and the people who love us. Let tinnitus be a reminder of all the wonderful things that we have been blessed with.

If you had been born with tinnitus, it would not bother you today because it would seem normal to you. It would be another sign of life, no different than the sound of your heartbeat.

So, do not think of tinnitus as a detriment, but think of it as a positive energy; a sign that you are alive and have many blessings to be thankful for.

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Refocus to Forget About Tinnitus

I am often asked how long it takes to get to the point where someone can ignore their tinnitus. The most popular response is something like, “I have been trying so hard but I just do not think that I can do it!” There are many ways to phrase this response and I have heard quite a variety, but I am always surprised when I hear it.

You see, in order to ignore your tinnitus or become habituated, a person must learn to forget about it by focusing on other things. The more one is able to do this, the easier it becomes and the longer the mind forgets about the constant ringing.

We have all had unpleasant thoughts or memories that we have tried to forget, and I can guarantee you that the harder we try to forget something, the more the memory stays stuck in our minds. The best way to forget something is to not try at all. The best approach is to focus on other things. We cannot focus on two things at once.

This brings us back to tinnitus. In order to ignore or habituate tinnitus, one must refocus their mind on other things. It is true. At first it may only last a few seconds but in time, those seconds will turn into minutes, into hours and into days.

The key to tinnitus habituation is to find things that you enjoy doing and do them. Do not let tinnitus stand in your way or it will always be a hindrance to happiness and a normal life.

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Hyperacusis: Another Coping Challenge for Many Tinnitus Sufferers

For many tinnitus sufferers, hyperacusis can actually be more difficult to deal with than their tinnitus. Because a few of my readers have stressed this point, and because I often felt the same way, I decided that a post on hyperacusis would be appropriate.

Hyperacusis is a condition which results in over-sensitivity or intolerance to certain frequency ranges of sound. People afflicted with hyperacusis generally have difficulty coping with normal sounds of everyday life. It has been reported that approximately 40% of tinnitus patients suffer from hyperacusis while 86% of hyperacusis patients also suffer from tinnitus.

The hyperacusis that I am are referring to is more appropriately known as cochlear hyperacusis. Do not confuse this with vestibular hyperacosis. Vestibular hyperacusis is a condition where the brain sometimes perceives sound as movement sensations. A common example might be a certain type of sound that triggers a sense of spinning or falling. Because vestibular hyperacusis is irrelevant to tinnitus, I will focus this discussion on cochlear hyperacusis.

A person suffering from hyperacusis might be bothered by the ringing of a telephone, running water, a ticking clock, the sound of the refrigerator running, normal to loud conversation, or even someone chewing gum or eating. Higher pitched sounds are generally worse. In fact, a person suffering from hyperacusis will often complain that many of these sounds will actually cause pain in their ears.

Many people suffering from cochlear hyperacusis may also experience panic attacks, extreme stress and crying spells. Depression and withdrawal from social situations and live events are also common reactions.

Not surprisingly, the causes of hyperacusis are also common causes of tinnitus. One theory on the cause is that it is a result of damage to the auditory nerve (the nerve that transmits sounds from the inner ear to the brain). Other causes include:

  • Overexposure to high sound levels such as a gunshot, fireworks or a car airbag deployment
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Head injury
  • Ear infections
  • Hearing problems

If you are suffering from hyperacusis, it is important to communicate this to family, friends and loved ones. Armed with this knowledge and understanding, they can often contribute to making your environment quieter and thus more comfortable.

Other common hyperacusis coping tips include:

  • Sound therapy machines, CDs or audio files to help you relax
  • Ear plugs to help you turn down the volume in noisy environments
  • iPod tracks such as white noise or pink noise
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Supporting a Friend or Loved One Suffering with Tinnitus

Not everyone stricken with tinnitus suffers from it. However, for many that do, it can be devastating. One thing that can make a big difference is the support of a spouse, family member or close friend.

If you are close to someone suffering, it may be hard for you to understand what he or she is going through. You cannot see it, hear it or feel it, but you will witness the affect that it generates.

Panic is often the first reaction, especially when the tinnitus sufferer starts to read some of the horror stories others are writing about their own experiences. Try to discourage the endless searching for the magic cure in the forums and other related sites. Keep informed through more fact based sites like www.pubmed.com or www.ata.org.

Encourage the tinnitus sufferer to see a physician as soon as possible. It is very likely that the tinnitus is a temporary reaction to a sinus infection or a reaction from a prescription or other medication being taken at the time. A good doctor will help isolate the problem and alleviate the results.

If you are the spouse, I recommend that you accompany your mate to these doctor visits, at least initially. You will often be more open minded and able to focus on the doctor’s advice than the sufferer.

If the source of the tinnitus cannot be established, the doctor most likely will recommend a hearing test. If hearing loss is determined, it may be the cause of the tinnitus. Many tinnitus sufferers have reported that their tinnitus is quieted through the use of hearing aids. Talk about this with the hearing specialist and see if they will consider a trial fitting.

Many people have trouble sleeping as a result of their tinnitus. Setting the sleep timer on the TV is a good remedy as it helps them distract their mind from the ringing until they can fall asleep. Once asleep, the tinnitus should not be a factor. Listening to soft music, a podcast or an audible book are also good distractors.

Many people with tinnitus also suffer from an acute sensitivity to sound, known as hyperacusis. If this is the case, you will want to avoid such things as clanging dishes, loud conversations or TV volume and noisy restaurants or shopping malls. Talk to your spouse to determine the types of noises that are bothersome so that you can do your part to help keep the noise level down and avoid noisy environments.

The last thing that I want to mention that you need to be aware of and sensitive to in the tinnitus sufferer is depression. Your help and understanding here is critical. Often, just a hug or a holding of the hand or a gentle kiss in acknowledgement is all that is necessary. You cannot take the pain away but you can make it more bearable by your display of understanding and support. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone in the fight and that together, you will fight the battle that will eventually lead to victory over the adverse effects of tinnitus.

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Relaxation Techniques for Tinnitus Relief

Relaxation techniques can reduce the stress symptoms that exacerbate your tinnitus levels. Exploring relaxation techniques that you can do on your own will help you enjoy a better quality of life.

During our daily life, we all deal with various challenges and hassles that cause adverse affects on our minds and bodies. Relaxation techniques can help reduce this wear and tear.

Learning basic relaxation techniques is easy. You should experiment with various techniques to find the ones that work best for you.

Practicing relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms by:

  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Lowering blood pressure

Relaxation techniques are usually designed to refocus your attention to something calming to your mind while increasing awareness of your body. There are many techniques to choose from. Experiment with various techniques to find one or two that work best for you. When you find the ones you like, you should practice daily to sustain the benefits of reduced stress. Make it part of your routine.

There are several main types of relaxation techniques, including:

Autogenic Relaxation

Autogenic relaxation is done by focusing on something that comes from within.

You could repeat words or suggestions in your mind or imagine a peaceful place to help you relax. Then you might focus on controlled breathing or relaxing various parts of your body, such as relaxing your arms or legs one at a time.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start by slowing tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively work your way up to your neck and head. Tense your muscles for at least five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat. Your focus should be on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation.

Visualization

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a peaceful, calming place. This could be a favorite vacation spot or a picture in a travel brochure. During this visualization, try to use as many senses as you can. If you imagine relaxing on the beach, for instance, think about such things as the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves and the warmth of the sun on your body.

In addition to these techniques, you might also consider Yoga, listening to music, exercise, meditation or a massage.

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Tinnitus and Alcohol

There are a lot of conflicting opinions about the effects of alcohol on tinnitus, largely because people react differently to alcohol, and people react differently to tinnitus. Some claim it reduces the sound of tinnitus while others claim it makes it worse.

On a personal note, when I first encountered tinnitus, I climbed into the bottle. I cannot say that it quieted my tinnitus but it did help me to cope. However, on the other hand, if I drank too much, it definitely made my tinnitus louder the next morning.

I tried refraining from alcohol for weeks at a time in hopes that it would have a positive effect on my tinnitus. Sadly, I noticed no change. I still had the regular mix of good days and bad days with no perceivable difference. Most of my research uncovered the same results.

Here is an excerpt from a recent study that I found on PubMed:

“One hundred chronic sufferers attending a tinnitus outpatient clinic completed self-report questionnaires assessing the quantity of alcohol they consumed weekly and its effect on tinnitus. The results showed a mixed effect of alcohol on tinnitus with 22% of the sample reporting that drinking worsened tinnitus, 62% reporting no effect of alcohol on tinnitus and 16% reporting that alcohol improved tinnitus. The reported effect of alcohol on tinnitus significantly influenced the reported change in the level of alcohol intake since tinnitus onset, with significantly more units of alcohol being consumed by those sufferers who reported that alcohol improved their tinnitus. However, for the sample as a whole, drinking behavior was not significantly different to that of the general population.”

~ PMID: 8838550 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Responsible drinking should not be a problem for most tinnitus sufferers. However, leaning on alcohol as a crutch to cope with your tinnitus could eventually lead to alcohol dependence and/or other adverse health conditions.

It is much better to distract your focus from tinnitus by doing things you enjoy and being around people you love.

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Tinnitus and Movie Theaters

Generally, I prefer to watch movies in the privacy and comfort of my home as opposed to going to an indoor theater. However, when a new movie comes out that really catches my interest, seeing it in the theater is my only choice outside of waiting for months until it is released for home viewing.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a day off work to be with my wife on her birthday. There was a movie that she had wanted to see and this seemed like the perfect occasion.

We got there early, grabbed some popcorn and a soda and settled into our seats near the back row. Then it started!

As soon as the previews began, I remembered what I had forgotten about watching movies in a theater. The sound track is cranked way up and is killing my ears, and I forgot my earplugs!

Many people who suffer from tinnitus also suffer from sound sensitivity or hyperacusis. I am one of them and you may be too. In fact, about 40% of tinnitus patients complain of mild hyperacusis.

For me, the previews are the worst. They play all of the intense scenes with the most banging and pounding and the noise level is unbearable, almost painful. It drives me nuts and totally stresses me out!

Once the movie starts, it is usually a lot easier to handle but it also depends on the movie. However, the extremely high volume usually gets my tinnitus going pretty good. Not only does it crank up the volume of my tinnitus but it usually lasts a day or two.

I can deal with the increased tinnitus levels but I do not handle the hyperacusis well, especially in this type of environment.

I had been there before and cannot believe I had forgotten what it was like. I have a pair of musician’s ear plugs that allow me to hear everything but at a lower volume. I just did not think about it before hand or I would have taken them with me.

If you have hyperacusis, I would highly recommend that you pick up some earplugs and put them on your key chain. The type that I use are made by Etymotic Research. You can pick them up at Amazon for $10 to $20. They are made to reduce the noise while preserving sound quality. They even come with a small carrying case that you can clip on your key chain. Just don’t wait till the next day like I did.

Now…sit back and enjoy the movie.

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