Tinnitus is a condition in which you will hear noises such as high pitched whistles, musical tones (either singly or several at once) and rushing noises in the ears which may or may not change in level or tone. It can have a number of different causes and can be extremely distressing to the individual who has it. Furthermore people who are totally deaf in one or both ears can have tinnitus even though they have no hearing.
There are several prognoses:
- The tinnitus may only last for a few minutes or until whatever is causing it has cleared up, then go away. It may never come back.
- It may return intermittently.
- It may remain the same and not go away.
- It may get worse as time goes on.
There are ways of coping with this condition but there are several things that can exacerbate a bad attack if you have it:
- Emotional upset
- Extreme temperatures
- Noisy environments
Environments where you are listening to something you can’t quite hear – people speaking quietly or very very quiet music – you can’t focus on the sound properly and the tinnitus becomes louder than the sound. For example, in a meeting at work where you are in a large room with a lot of people and you can’t hear the people at the other end of the room.
We all experience stress and emotional upset at times and to a certain extent you have to try to learn what causes such stress and upset and avoid situations which cause these if you can.
Don’t be afraid to ask your employers for help. In both the UK and the United States there are disability laws where your employer cannot disadvantage you because you are disabled. And he/she won’t want you off sick because of screaming tinnitus!
If you have tinnitus try to avoid very noisy environments – the noise may mask the tinnitus but when you come out of the area you may find that it’s much worse as a result.
If you’re having a bad attack of tinnitus, don’t try to mask it with background noise of any kind (unless you’re using a tinnitus masker to help you sleep). You may well find that when the background noise of the TV, radio or whatever is switched off your tinnitus is worse than it was before you switched it on.
Unfortunately the extreme temperatures people have been experiencing in the United States and the UK will also have had effects on those with tinnitus. Hot, thundery, humid, tropical weather is the worst possible thing for it – and there’s very little you can do to avoid it.
If you can find something you enjoy doing which helps you to relax and become completely absorbed (for example surfing the Internet for something you’re really interested in), you may find you forget the noise is there and once you come away from whatever it is you’re doing it is not so bad. And quite often the sheer stress of being at work and travelling to and from work makes things worse during the week, but at weekends or when you have your days off if you can manage to relax and rest it will help.
I’ll talk about some medications and equipment which can sometimes help to control tinnitus next time.