How to Take Control of Tinnitus

Senior man with his hands over his ears because of Tinnitus.

Have you ever been kept awake by a dripping faucet? Maybe it’s two in the morning, your heart is racing, your forehead is sweaty, you toss and turn–all because of that drip, drip, drip coming from the bathtub. Which is weird. A dripping faucet is not a loud sound. The tension, then, likely comes from the consistency.

And that helps explain why tinnitus can be such a frustrating hearing ailment to experience. Whatever sound the tinnitus in your ears creates–ringing, buzzing, thumping–the noise is essentially constant. So knowing how to take control of your tinnitus can be absolutely essential.

Ways to Control Your Tinnitus

Will.i.am has had a prodigious entertainment and music career. He also has tinnitus and hearing loss. The constant noise from his ears, though, compels him to keep busy. “I can’t be quiet,” he said in a recent interview. “As that’s when I notice the ringing in my ears … I don’t know what silence sounds like anymore.”

Will.i.am has been pretty open about how he’s trying to combat his tinnitus: taking care of his ears and his health alike (and he’s talked a lot about how he changed his diet). But you don’t necessarily have to go full vegan to try to control your tinnitus symptoms. Indeed, there are several technological solutions and treatments that can help with tinnitus.

Masking Device

The most popular treatment for tinnitus (especially when it’s not accompanied by hearing loss) is something called a masking device. These powerful pieces of technology look much like a hearing aid (they can be just as subtle, in some cases, too). Here’s how they work:

  • The masking device is calibrated to emit a sound, most often a steady stream of white noise.
  • The volume on the device is carefully controlled: loud enough to obscure the tinnitus sounds but quiet enough that it doesn’t mask the outside world at all.
  • The volume on the masking device can be changed to suit the environment you’re in.
  • The sound effectively “masks” whatever ringing or buzzing may come from your tinnitus.

In most cases, the sound that the masking device emits will be some kind of white noise–easy to tune out and dismiss. But that can change depending on your tinnitus. Masking devices can be changed and calibrated to treat your specific tinnitus symptoms.

Hearing Aid

If you’re experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus, a masking device might not meet your needs. Luckily, you’re probably already wearing some tech that helps: your hearing aids.

For many people with hearing loss, tinnitus symptoms seem to get more pronounced as the world becomes quieter. By bringing the sounds of the world up to full volume (or close to it) again, you can make the tinnitus effectively quieter. In a way, this is the same principle behind the masking device. It’s just that, in the process, you also get the benefit of hearing well.

White Noise Machine

Like the dripping faucet, your tinnitus tends to be most noticeable when the world is otherwise quiet (that’s why you mostly notice that drip, drip, drip at night). In cases of mild tinnitus, something as simple as a white noise machine can present a solution: the buzzing of a small motor (like in a fan or a humidifier) gives your brain something louder than your tinnitus to focus on–but something that’s also easy to tune out.

If you have trouble finding a white noise machine that works, there are plenty of apps for your smartphone that play a wide variety of innocuous noises. Many of these apps can also be set up to work with your alarm clock, too.

Control Starts With Treatment

Controlling your tinnitus starts with treatment. Sometimes, electronic devices (like masking devices or hearing aids) are the way to go. But there are other therapies, too: meditations, behavior changes, and medications all might help.

Finding what works best could take some trial and error. But quieting your tinnitus can help you ignore that proverbial drip, drip, drip–and finally focus on something more deserving of your time and attention.


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