Stress around COVID Making Tinnitus Worse?

Man managing his Tinnitus

According to the Hearing Health Foundation, more than 48 million Americans and 477 million people worldwide have that persistent ringing in the ears that we call tinnitus. For 26% of these people, the symptoms are nearly constant and unbearable. Tinnitus can make everyday activities difficult, including sleeping. Over time, that can lead to depression or other health issues.

Thankfully, there are ways to address tinnitus. Here are 7 ways to deal with tinnitus.

1. Wear Hearing Protection to Prevent Further Damage to Your Hearing

If you are a very early stage, know that tinnitus is usually a symptom of hearing loss. The most common cause of tinnitus is loud noise.

Take precautions to prevent further damage. Wear ear protection when you engage in noisy activities like practice shooting, concerts or riding a motorcycle. Modern motorcycle helmets are designed to protect your ears so there’s another reason to always wear one.

2. Reduce the Volume on All Devices

Ever notice that the ringing sounds louder after listening to music? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you never listen to music at over 60% of its max volume for 60 minutes. If you wear earbuds, be especially cautious. Earbuds direct sound right into the ear canal. They’re louder at a lower volume. Even at this safer level, if you listen for long periods of time it can do damage to your hearing. So make sure to give your ears breaks every now and then. If bringing the noise down to safe standards makes it too low, you may need to have your hearing checked. Modern hearing aids can help stream music at safe levels without harming your hearing.

3. Check to Make Sure Your Medications Aren’t Ototoxic

Some medications can contribute to tinnitus and hearing loss. If you are on these meds and the tinnitus is becoming unbearable, speak with your prescribing physician about alternatives.

Some medications that contribute to hearing loss include:

  • Over-the-counter painkillers, like Tylenol, aspirin, Advil or Aleve when used 2 or more times a day for an extended period of time.
  • Opiates (prescribed and the illegal ones)
  • Loop diuretics
  • Some antibiotics
  • Some chemo drugs

4. Get a Hearing Test and Evaluation

Could fixing your tinnitus be as simple as cleaning the earwax out? Yes. Earwax can cause tinnitus and so can hearing loss.

Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist for a complete hearing evaluation. It may be a simple fix. Or you may have more complex tinnitus.

5. Manage Stress to Reduce the Ringing in Your Ears

Stress and tinnitus go hand in hand. As stress worsens, so can tinnitus. As the tinnitus gets louder, you may feel more stressed. Cutting this cycle off at its core can significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms.

In some cases, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants may help.

But it’s often good to start with more natural stress management techniques like:

  • Reading quietly or doing another peaceful activity
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Regular walks
  • Exercise

6. Try White Noise

Does your tinnitus get worse when you’re in a quiet room? That’s because most of the time, you’re around some kind of low-level noise. It might be an air conditioner, TV or traffic. Take these away and the sound becomes more pronounced.

To address those symptoms, try reintroducing controlled noise into the room. If your tinnitus is mild, then turning a ceiling fan on might help. If you have moderate to severe tinnitus, box fans and sound machines produce sufficiently loud and consistent white noise so you can sleep and carry on a conversation without distraction.

7. Hearing Aids

Many hearing aids today can be programmed to help you tune the tinnitus out. They emit a matching frequency that trains the brain to “not hear” the sound. Or they work to cancel the sound with a complementary tone. Hearing aids are one of the best long-term solutions for treating tinnitus. They go with you wherever you go…so you don’t have to worry about whether there is white noise in the background.

Are you living with a persistent ringing in your ear? Does it have you cringing to hear your loved ones or the TV? Is it hard to sleep at night? You don’t have to live with that persistent ringing. Explore your options. Talk with a hearing professional.

Page medically reviewed by Kevin St. Clergy, Audiologist, on May 11, 2020.

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