Tinnitus can be frustrating and frightening. It’s noise you can’t get away from, and often is high-pitched, harsh, and irritating. Sudden onset tinnitus can be debilitating, particularly if it’s accompanied by hyperacussis (sensitivity to noise), vertigo, or noticeable hearing loss.
Coping with tinnitus is hard, but there are resources that can help you. The first thing to do is take a deep breath and try not to panic, because even sudden onset tinnitus rarely means that anything really awful is going on. In most cases your condition will be more irritating and annoying than anything else, and may resolve in time.
Look For The Cause
First, review your medications with your pharmacist. Are you taking anything that could be causing your tinnitus? If so, check with your doctor and see whether you can change your medication or your dosage.
Also look at changes in your diet. Some artificial sweeteners can cause tinnitus. Other compounds, such as caffeine, can worsen it.
If your tinnitus comes and goes, try to identify what makes it worse. Keep track of medication, diet, and other factors that may affect head noise.
See an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT), preferably one who has an audiologist in his or her practice. The audiologist will check your hearing and continue to monitor you for any changes in your hearing or increased hearing loss. Be sure your ENT is experienced in dealing with tinnitus patients. Not all of them are.
Don’t accept a diagnosis such as “Go home and learn to live with it.” If that’s what your doctor says, get a second opinion.
Protect yourself from further damage to your hearing. Stay out of loud places. Invest in a good pair of ear plugs and carry them with you in case you must go into a noisy situation.
Find Out About Treatment
Ask your doctor for information about current research and treatment options. Find websites and other sources of information about tinnitus such as the American Tinnitus Association. Keep up to date on what researchers are doing, because they are trying to understand the condition and find a cure.
Review your lifestyle and look for possible triggers for tinnitus. Stress can make it considerably worse, so look for ways to reduce stress.
If you try a tinnitus treatment and it doesn’t work right away, don’t give up. Some therapies take time to be effective.
Maintain a Good Attitude
As unnerving as tinnitus can be, don’t give up. Much of managing this condition is to develop a positive attitude about it.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect yourself to adjust to this overnight. If you have a permanent condition, it will take you a long time to adjust to it. Developing tinnitus is a major life change, and some patients struggle with it for several years until they fully adjust to it and make accommodations for it.
Know that you will adjust. It may take time, but at some point you will stop noticing it so much and it will become “background noise.” This doesn’t mean that you’ll stop hearing it, or that it will go away, but it will become less distracting and noticeable over time.
Don’t engage in negative thinking. If you tell yourself it won’t get any better, it probably won’t. Keep a positive attitude and look toward a better future.
Don’t blame yourself for your condition. There are many causes for tinnitus, and most of them are beyond your control.
Educate your family and friends about your condition. Even though they can’t see or hear it, they need to understand that this is a real condition and problem, and that affects all aspects of your life. Enlist their help in making any necessary lifestyle changes. Be sure they know what makes your tinnitus worse, and ask for help in avoiding those conditions.
Find a support group for tinnitus patients. Members will understand your condition and be able to offer suggestions and lifestyle changes that may help you.
Stay up to date with ongoing research and look for new ways to manage your tinnitus.