Tinnitus - adapting and coping techniques
As both a counsellor and someone who experiences tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and has done for many years, I was hoping to offer counselling to others with a similar condition to myself. Particularly during the early onset stage, when coping anxieties are at their highest.
“How am I going to live with this? Will I never experience peace and silence again?”
The early days can be very distressing. As far as I am aware there is still no cure, but I would like to offer tools and hope that living with tinnitus is possible.
So, why am I not offering counselling for a condition that I am also trying to manage? One of the most successful methods of habituating to tinnitus is to not give the condition more attention than it deserves (as little as possible, in my book). Both my clients and I found that just talking and thinking about it made it worse. Also, apart from passing on a first aid kit of useful tools I collected from the Bristol Tinnitus Group back in 2008, I didn’t feel able to offer greater or more extensive assistance.
I have honed those first aid tools down to as simple a kit as possible for myself and hope they might now be useful to others. They are not always easy but they have worked well for me:
- Distraction – Avoid letting your tinnitus become the centre of your attention.
- Don't search for a cure – I found that doing so only encourages me to continually monitor whether my tinnitus has changed.
- Try and maintain a positive attitude – It’s usually not physically painful. You are probably not going to be physically disabled by it.
- Habituation – It will get better. In as much as you will get used to or become accustomed to the ticking clock on the mantelpiece or the traffic outside.
- Manage your tinnitus – Be a good manager rather than a victim or sufferer. The distinction is important.
- Learn to live with it as best you can – It may be permanent. It probably won’t get any better and it probably won’t get any worse. Don’t try and find a cause.
- Masking – Use phone apps or an analogue radio off-channel or white noise generators to mask the noise. This will help the brain adapt because…
- The brain is a brilliant organ, for which I have huge respect. It will adapt even without your help.
My own tinnitus has remained steadfastly the same since 2008 – no worse, no better, no louder or softer. If you have waxy ears, avoid blockage; micro-suction is readily available privately. Ensure you’ve been checked for possible medical causes. Hyperacusis, if you have it (sensitivity to tinkly, high-pitched sounds, such as cutlery in a drawer) can be painful in the early days but this tends to lessen or go away completely over time (in my case).
Finally, as one famous rock musician advised: “Assign a positive aspect to the noise.” It may never go away but it will get better.
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