This week is tinnitus awareness week and speaking from experience, I know how much it can affect my mental health. Having different noises constantly going on in your head can be overwhelming and it wasn’t until a recent visit to an audiologist that I learnt more about tinnitus. So, I’m here to share my knowledge with you, in the hopes it helps you too.
Tinnitus is the term for the sensation of hearing a sound without an external source, meaning there isn’t something making a sound, it is in fact your brain saying there is a sound when there isn’t. It can seem like the noises are in one ear, in the middle of the head, or it can be difficult to locate. There is no exact reason for tinnitus, but it is thought to possibly be due to a change in mental or physical wellbeing.
Because tinnitus is something internal, professionals often suggest mechanisms that are to do with relaxation and mindfulness. Here are a few tips to help you cope with this:
- Talk to your GP who may be able to refer you to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) department or other specialists. They may suggest for you to wear a hearing aid as the loss of hearing can be gradual and unnoticeable
- Talk to someone about it. Tinnitus can affect people in different ways so it can be helpful to talk to someone who has experienced this too. The British Tinnitus Association have a tool to help you find local support groups here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/find-a-support-group
- Try some relaxation methods. When you notice the sound of your tinnitus it often gets louder because your brain is trying to figure out what it is or where it is coming from. Humans are programmed to react to noise and sounds, so with tinnitus our brains go into overdrive meaning we often find it hard to relax. Practising relaxation could help quieten this. You can engage in relaxing activities, whether that is a bath or warm shower, drawing and crafts, breathing exercises, going for a walk, listening to music and so on. The options are endless
- Use sound, as tinnitus is usually more noticeable when you are in a quiet environment. If you have sound playing, your tinnitus may not be as loud. There is a free app that was recommended to me, called ReSound Relief which has lots of useful tools for example, meditation and deep breathing exercises, information, white / pink noise, and the option to create your own music depending on your likes. More information is available here: https://www.resound.com/en-gb/hearing-aids/apps/relief. This is the app tile image (right)
- Get a good sleep pattern to reduce the impact of the tinnitus. If you are struggling to sleep, you may find your tinnitus sounds louder which then makes it harder to fall asleep. Have some soft neutral background sound on, the ReSound Relief app can be helpful as you can set a timer for music to help you get to sleep with sound in the background. Try to do some deep breathing to relax your mind and body, have a cool but not cold room and avoid having caffeine a few hours before bedtime
- You can seek professional support through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Mindfulness, and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). This could help to provide you with other ways coping. If you’re interested in this, it might be worth speaking with your GP or local Primary Care Mental Health Service (PCMHS) Or you can refer yourself directly to the NHS Psychological Wellbeing Service Psychological Wellbeing Service (IAPT) | CPFT NHS Trust
More information on tinnitus is available here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/all-about-tinnitus.
Tinnitus isn’t just something older people may come across; people of all ages can experience this, and it can affect everyone differently. It is more than ok to get help for this, hearing a constant and unexplained noise can be draining. There is help there so why not make the most of it?
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
All the best,
Mental Health Engagement Facilitator