Reducing your tinnitus can be challenging. You may have already tried to reduce the volume of your tinnitus. In my years as an audiologist and tinnitus expert, I have learned how most of my patients succeed to reduce their tinnitus. This article will cover seven strategies for tinnitus relief. These techniques are simple ways to reduce the loudness of your tinnitus.
How To Reduce Tinnitus Naturally
Before we start with the seven strategies, I need to explain the fundamentals of tinnitus. First, you want to consider what is the cause of your tinnitus. This may include an ear infection, hearing loss, medication, or period of high stress in your life.
The three pillars that you may want to consider to reduce your tinnitus naturally are: psychology, sound, and relaxation. Each of the seven strategies outlined below will fall into one of these three pillars. Please remember that your tinnitus may be caused by multiple factors. In some cases, tinnitus can be medically treated. You should have a consultation with a medical doctor before trying to treat tinnitus on your own. Now, let’s explain seven tips for how to reduce tinnitus.
1. Sound Therapy For Tinnitus
The reason that sound therapy is used in tinnitus relief is because the auditory brain is creating a phantom sound that doesn’t have much to compare to. If you have a candle in a room and there’s lots of lights in the room, then you will not be focused on the candle. But if you have a candle in a very dark room where the lights are turned down, your eyes are focused on the candle. It’s a similar effect with tinnitus.
Most likely, your origin of your tinnitus started with damage to your cochlea, the hearing organ. A damaged cochlea sends a distorted signal through the nerve to the auditory brain. The auditory brain then creates this phantom sound or ringing in the ear. That is what we call tinnitus. And sound therapy can help.
There’s two things we know really well about tinnitus. First, you’re going to hear it much louder in a quiet place. Second, your stress levels and the reaction from your nervous system can make the tinnitus louder and more bothersome.
I want to explain the candle analogy better and how it relates to sound therapy. The candle represents your tinnitus. The lights in the room represent other sounds in your environment. If the room was dark, and I didn’t want you to focus on the candle, I would just turn on other lights and your attention would be elsewhere, you wouldn’t be so fixated on the candle. Similarly, with hearing, if all you can hear is the ringing in your ears, and it has your attention, it’s hard to think about anything else.
Sound therapy for tinnitus uses soft sounds to help reduce the loudness of your tinnitus. The sound therapy can come into the ears through headphones, speakers, or the natural world. Simple sound therapy can be effective for managing tinnitus during the day and trying to go to sleep at night. You can use simple sounds around your home, like a fan, heater, or white noise machine. That will increase the amount of sound going into your auditory system. That makes the ringing or the tinnitus more tolerable.
I’ve used white noise makers and fans a lot myself. I’ve slept with a fan or air purifier for the last five years. It helps me calm down and prepare for sleep. I have tinnitus myself. I hear it throughout the day. I’m not hyper focused on it. When I’m going to sleep, my tinnitus seems the loudest.
Instead of focusing on it and creating this negative story about why I have it, I prefer to use a fan or a white noise machine to help me sleep. If your tinnitus is minor, then using sound therapy might be just what you need to manage it.
2. Hearing Aids For Tinnitus
The second strategy you may want to try if you have bothersome tinnitus are hearing aids. I’m a Doctor of Audiology. That means I have the most extensive training with hearing aids. Here are some of the secrets and top tips you need to know about hearing aids for tinnitus. This strategy will touch on some of the same basic principles as strategy one sound therapy.
When we increase sound entering your ears, then the tinnitus will likely reduce in voluem when you’re wearing the devices during the day. Around 50 to 60% of people report relief from their tinnitus. The hearing aid gives your auditory system access to the sounds that your cochlea was filtering out. With hearing aids, noise around you will sound louder. You will notice a lot of different hearing ability and acuity in your environment, with your family with speech sounds, television volume, etc.
The fact is that 80% of people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. You may want to consider an online hearing test to check your hearing. Hearing aids are sophisticated devices. There’s millions of dollars of research going into them.
Right now there’s no pill or surgery to make tinnitus go away. Hearing aids are often a great choice about how to manage the tinnitus during the day. Simply wearing hearing aids will improve tinnitus for a lot of people.
Additionally, you can consider what are called ear level noise generators. This is usually a setting of the hearing aid that you can access by pressing it and that will give you some calming sounds to wear through your day. The potential benefit would be similar to what you would experience with sound therapy during your day. The difference is that ear-level sound generators allow you to hear sound only in your ears. That means no one else in the room or around you can hear it. You can play relaxing white noise, ocean noise, nature sounds, and other kinds of specific tones that have been set up for tinnitus relief.
You can listen to sound therapy in your ears at a low soft volume during the day and you won’t be bothering anyone else. That is a big deal.
Hearing aids are a common treatment method in tinnitus retraining therapy. It’s not for everyone, but it is something to consider. If you don’t have a hearing loss, ear-level sound generators could provide some relief for you.
3. Sleep Habits For Tinnitus
Insomnia is a common side effect of tinnitus. You may be able to improve your tinnitus by focusing on sleep habits.
The third strategy is sleep habits. You can focus on the half hour before you enter sleep. This is a crucial period where your body receives signals that it needs to turn down, slow down, get out of the head and into the body. The best thing you can do is have a consistent schedule in the evening, where you stop using technology, do some practices that relax you, and let you enter sleep gracefully.
Give yourself a 20 or 30 minute buffer where your body receives signs that you’re slowing down. This is how you can impact the feedback loops of tinnitus that can make it worse and worse over time. You may benefit by sending signals to your body that your nervous system can relax and calm down. The result you can expect from this is that you’re going to have a better chance of falling asleep faster and staying asleep throughout the night.
The second sleep habit is to limit the light in your bedroom before you go to sleep. That could mean turning off screens like televisions and cell phones. Check out what kind of light sources you have coming into your bedroom at night. Blackout curtains can be a good way to limit external light from entering your bedroom and disrupting your sleep. If you have some charging electronics next to you or in your room that’s bouncing off a wall, that can also disturb your ability to fall asleep.
The third essential sleep habit focuses on sound therapy. I hope you’re going to sleep at night in a relatively quiet place. That means your tinnitus is going to seem much louder. Your tinnitus can reach loudness levels that keep you awake, make it hard to fall asleep, and sometimes keep you up for hours. You may want to mask the tinnitus when you’re sleeping. You can use a white noise maker, a white noise machine, or another form of sound therapy. It’s just a background noise and it helps us fall asleep easier.
And next we have the sound pillow. This is a pillow with a small speaker in the middle of it. You can plug into your phone to play music.
4. Mindfulness For Tinnitus
In mindfulness practice, you can enter a state where you can observe your thoughts, emotions and reactions towards tinnitus. Through that perspective, you can learn how to better manage your psychological reaction to tinnitus. An esteemed American Professor defines mindfulness as “moment to moment non judgmental awareness.”
Mindfulness for tinnitus may help you realize that you are not your negative reaction to tinnitus. That negative reaction doesn’t control you. When you practice mindfulness, you start to separate yourself from your bad habits and your negative thinking.
Can you think about a time recently when you were lost in thought, maybe you were reading a book and your mind was drifting. And after reading half of a page, you realized you didn’t take in any of that. Or maybe you were in a work meeting, and you found yourself daydreaming. And then someone said your name and you went, “Huh?” Those are examples of how your mind can have involuntary automatic thought patterns that take us out of the present moment.
Mindfulness techniques for tinnitus are designed to build a stronger connection with the present moment. Involuntary thoughts of automatic thinking can create negative stories about tinnitus. Some examples of this are to have these negative automatic thoughts are:
- What am I going to do with my life now that I have tinnitus in my ears?
- What does this mean for my future?
- Am I ever going to get over this?
- Does this mean I have something wrong with me?
There’s nothing wrong with you. This is an opportunity for you to take tinnitus as a guide. Your auditory brain is creating a signal and you’re listening to it. There’s nothing wrong with you for doing that. Mindfulness techniques allow you to interface with your tinnitus in a different way. This has far reaching benefits that are much greater than just finding control for your tinnitus.
Oftentimes, my clients report that they benefited from mindfulness practices in ways that they wouldn’t have expected. Jon Kabat Zinn, a mindfulness meditation teacher and PhD psychologist, wrote the book called ‘Full Catastrophe Living’. This book is the original mindfulness text for stress reduction.
I read the book and went through all the practices myself. The book teaches you how to meditate and develop a strong sense of presence. The book teaches body scan technique that is the foundation of mindfulness. Guided body scan for tinnitus means listening to a recorded audio while lying on the ground or sitting in a chair. You scan your body for sensations by feeling whatever your body’s bringing up. This is a way to be in a hyper present state. Mindfulness for tinnitus can calm you down and connect you to your parasympathetic nervous system.
Certain kinds of yoga, specifically hatha yoga or yin yoga are very slow and grounding. Those are also recommended in mindfulness practices. When you’re moving slow and focus on your breath, that can have benefits for tinnitus too.
5. Meditation For Tinnitus
Meditation is one of the best techniques to connect to the present moment. Connecting into the parasympathetic nervous system is one of the most underrated aspects to reduce tinnitus. Meditation can be one of the best ways to do that. Meditation can have a positive impact on tinnitus, how much you’re bothered by it, and potentially the loudness.
Meditation is a tool to reduce stress and calm the nervous system by increasing the parasympathetic response. There’s many different ways to meditate. If you’re new to meditation, start with Day 1 of the Tinnitus Meditation Challenge.
I’ve meditated for about three years and it’s become a daily practice in my life. For the last two years, meditation had a positive impact on my ability to recognize automatic impulses and negative reactions. There was a point in my life where I had never tried it. And I didn’t understand what was the point. My meditation practice became the best way to be in line with my center. Meditation was truly a gift that I received and now something that I use every day.
You may want to consider meditation, or some form of mindfulness practice that could help your tinnitus. The goal of meditation is not to silence the mind. That’s a beginner mistake where beginners think they are bad at meditating because they keep having thoughts.
Everyone who meditates is constantly observing their thoughts. That’s totally normal. The goal of meditation is not to silence the mind. That’s impossible. The goal is to observe the mind’s involuntary thinking, and always come back to that relationship with your breath and body.
The most common way to meditate is by sitting on a cushion, where the hip bones are slightly raised off the ground, higher than the knees. A different way to meditate would be to sit in a chair with your spine straight up. If sitting still is hard for you, you can also try a walking meditation.
6. Diet & Exercise For Tinnitus
There’s a strong relationship between eating healthy and overall wellness. If you’re feeling healthy, that’s going to give you the best chance to take control of your tinnitus. This is strategy number six in our seven part series.
Eating clean and healthy foods can have a positive effect on your immune function and your nervous system. Some basic diet tips are as follows: try to limit processed salt and sugars that are common in the Western diet.
Today’s research on tinnitus does not show a significant relationship between caffeine or alcohol intake and bothersome tinnitus. However, limiting caffeine and alcohol may have effects on your overall well being. You can consider trying that as well. If you have tinnitus or hearing loss related to what’s called Meniere’s disease, there is a link between salt intake and spikes in Meniere’s disease, which can lead to vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss episodes. If you have tinnitus related to Meniere’s disease, you should talk to your doctor about whether limiting your salt intake is right for you.
The World Health Organization recommends two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise per week. Exercise is a proven method to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. If you can commit to exercise and maintain your physical health, then that could have a positive effect on the stress response that we know is so directly linked to bothersome tinnitus.
Eat your fruits and vegetables. Get some good exercise. Go on walks with your friends and family. Go for a run, swim, or bike ride. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense.
I do not recommend fasting as part of tinnitus management. There’s no evidence based research to back it up. The only research article I found about tinnitus that mentioned fasting, described how prolonged periods of fasting could actually spike the tinnitus. I also couldn’t find a specific theory as to why ketosis or the keto diet (fasting) for intermittent periods would improve the auditory sensory cells of the cochlea, the auditory nerve, or the neurons of the auditory pathway. If you’re considering intermittent fasting for tinnitus, you need to talk to a nutritionist or medical doctor. There are some pre-existing conditions where fasting is a bad idea.
7. Tinnitus Support Groups
When you’re walking down the street and someone notices you, there’s no way for them to tell if you have tinnitus. tinnitus is invisible and no one else can hear it bothersome. Tinnitus can be hard to manage because even when you try to reach out to friends or family, they don’t really know how to support you. They don’t really know what you’re going through.
There’s two different types of support groups that you can find. There’s in person local support groups and online tinnitus support groups. The American Tinnitus Association has an amazing list of local support groups in the United States. I’ve hosted and attended some local in person support groups in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. And there is something special about coming together face-to-face in a small tinnitus support group.
Support groups help you learn from others who are going through similar challenges with their tinnitus. In person meetings typically talk about personal stories, research, management strategies, and any local advocacy efforts.
What’s become more and more popular over the years are online tinnitus support groups. Pure Tinnitus has its own called Pure Tinnitus Group Coaching. There’s also many different Facebook groups for tinnitus.
For some readers of this article, you may have mild tinnitus. Reading these seven strategies are are enough for you to start practicing techniques to reduce tinnitus.
There’s another group of you who will read the seven strategies and try them out here and there. You may see some mild improvement but have not systematically given every single strategy a good try. If you’re one of those individuals, then you may benefit from one-on-one tinnitus retraining therapy.
When you’re working with a private tinnitus coach, you’re more likely to show up for yourself and to reach the goals to improve your tinnitus and get some relief. You may need individualized tinnitus help to make quick gains on improving the tinnitus.