When you have both hearing loss and tinnitus, it can be very difficult to go about your daily life. Things that other people take for granted are much more challenging, and the side effects can leave you feeling tired, depressed and unable to focus. But don’t despair – we have tips to help you cope.
The Effects of Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
It is estimated that about 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and 50 million experience tinnitus. On their own, each causes problems – and there’s a lot of overlap between the two. When you suffer from both, the struggle is even harder. There’s a lot of overlap between the two; sometimes, hearing loss causes tinnitus, or is associated with one of the conditions that leads to it.
The ringing in your ears that is hallmark of tinnitus (it is also described as a hissing, whooshing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or other sound) can prevent you from falling and staying asleep, causing fatigue, stress and anxiety. You may find concentrating difficult and might notices lapses in memory. Because many of the strategies for managing tinnitus symptoms involve sound, if you also have hearing loss your options are more limited.
But there are strategies that will help you cope with both tinnitus and hearing loss. Your Iowa hearing specialist recommends the following:
- See an audiologist. It seems obvious, but many people overlook this basic step; studies show it takes an average of seven years from the onset of symptoms before a person will visit an audiologist. This hearing specialist will examine you to try to determine the cause of your tinnitus and might even be able to treat it successfully. They will also test your hearing using an audiogram to measure the frequencies you are having the most trouble with and can fit you with hearing aids targeting those areas. When you have hearing loss and tinnitus, it’s worthwhile to be proactive!
- Use hearing aids to your advantage. Studies show that nine out of ten people with hearing loss in Iowa and South Dakota will see improvement by wearing hearing aids. They’ll help you hear better, and many of them have features designed to help those with tinnitus, such as white noise, nature sounds or music. Try turning up the volume on your hearing aids – this will help mask the ringing in your ears, so it is less noticeable. Over time, your brain will become habituated, and tinnitus won’t be as much of a distraction.
- Learn relaxation techniques. The stress that often accompanies tinnitus can make your symptoms worse, so learning to relax will help calm you down and reduce the noise in your ears. Try incorporating hot baths, trigger point massages and progressive muscle relaxation techniques into your routine. A breathing exercise known as the 4-7-8 proves helpful for many. To master this, do the following:
- Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue behind your upper front teeth.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose while counting to four.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, counting to eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times.
- Get rid of tinnitus triggers. Certain factors can cause your tinnitus to spike in volume and intensity, often catching you off guard and interfering with activities. Try keeping a journal that tracks your diet, lifestyle and environment, and look for a correlation between these things and your tinnitus symptoms. If you notice a pattern and are able to identify certain triggers, you can make an effort to reduce or eliminate those triggers from your life. This should improve your tinnitus.
Need more information on tinnitus or hearing loss? Your audiologist can help provide you with additional tips and strategies for coping.