Helping Seniors Live Healthier Lives

Living With Tinnitus

Sometimes that ringing in your ears is barely noticeable. On other days, you can't ignore it and it disrupts your concentration and even your conversations with other people. Your doctor can help you define a number of ways to cope with the tinnitus. It may not be curable, but with the following options, you'll be able to function normally in spite of it.

Noise Suppression and Masking Devices

Several devices are available to help you block out the ringing so you can focus on your work and conversations. Some will help you relax so you can sleep easier.

  • White Noise Generators - These devices are available over-the-counter and produce a range of subtle sounds. Some are actual recordings of nature sounds, such as ocean waves crashing on the beach. Other devices digitally produce a large array of sounds from an oscillating fan to the rumble of a jet engine. You'll want to try out different sounds to see which ones take your attention away from the ringing. These devices are often used help people rest at night.
  • Noise Masking Devices - These hearing aid devices produce low levels of white noise that blends in with the tinnitus. You'll first have your hearing tested by an audiologist to determine the frequency of the ringing in your ears. When you come back for the hearing aid fitting, the device will be adjusted to produce white noise at the same frequency. Your mind will find it hard to separate the ringing from the white noise and will learn to ignore both sounds.
  • Audio Retraining Devices - These are much like the noise masking hearing aids, but they use tones to disguise the ringing. An audiologist will again match the frequency of the tones with your tinnitus. The tones will help drown out the ringing so your mind ignores both.

Coping Strategies

  • Biofeedback - Using equipment that monitors your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, you'll learn to consciously reduce your body's stress response to the tinnitus. Once you've mastered the techniques to lower these responses, you'll no longer need the monitoring devices. Learning to control your response to the stress of the tinnitus will help you concentrate at work and relax more fully when you go to sleep at night.
  • Meditation - A type of meditation, called mindfulness meditation, teaches you how to detach yourself from the ringing, so you can observe it but not be affected by it. This is another technique for stress relief that you'll use at work or home to calm your body's response to the persistent ringing.