The most important takeaways from the tinnitus clinic
In the last blog post I shared why I went to a tinnitus clinic and what it was like.
Now I want to share what I think are the most important takeaways of my time there – which I think you could benefit of as well!
There is no cure!
This was the first thing they said on the first talk there.
The doctor has specialized on tinnitus and has it himself.
He says, the most important thing is to accept it and to stop looking for a cure – hoping from one doctor to the next, from one healing promise to the next….wasting time and money.
He says up until now there is no proven cure.
Once the person has accepted that the ear ringing is here to stay, the work can begin. The work of learning how to live with it.
It doesn´t matter how it happened
No matter how you got your tinnitus – the same techniques dealing with it apply.
The cause isn´t of importance as it has the same effect, some hair cells are damaged and at this state of medicine these hair cells can´t be repaired nor replaced. This means, actually no matter how we got it, it damaged the same thing in our ear and causes the brain to react that way.
So stop worrying or wondering why it is there, as it often can´t be determined exactly, it doesn´t matter anyway for any further treatments.
Don´t avoid everything that is difficult due to tinnitus
At the clinic I learned that avoiding those places that make it difficult for me to follow a normal conversation is not helping my hear filter problem.
They said, the more we avoid it, the worse it gets as we are less and less used it and the more the brain and ears are irritated if we do expose them to a certain situation.
Let´s say I avoid going to cafés where it is loud or to bars with some sort of background music – the less I go the more I will get irritated by them. As my ears are never exposed to it.
Also I was wearing ear plugs when vacuuming and she said the same rule applies, the more you avoid it the worse it will get.
Of course I have to say at this point that I don´t have hyperacusis, but am sensitive to certain sounds and was mostly worried about damaging my ears more or annoyed by not being able to follow along what others are talking about.
But it made a lot of sense to me that avoiding everything makes the exposure to those things then even worse. I will experiment with that.
You can train your hear / listening filters
I thought my filters just stopped working due to the overload of having to deal with tinnitus. And yes, that is the case. BUT it can be re-learned. It is basically like training a muscle.
Set aside a short amount of time every day to dedicate to your practice. It can be with music therapy by listening to a song and trying to just pay attention to one instrument or by being in a noisy environment and focusing on just one person. It can also be a phone call or movie while having something else on.
If it starts to feel easier you can increase the time period slowly but steady.
Don´t over protect your ears
Sounds weird, yes but it makes so much sense.
It is basically the same as number 4., using ear plugs too often or let´s say in situations you don´t need them in will lead you to having to use them more and more as your ears will get more sensitive.
Meaning, if you already put your ear plugs in when the music doesn´t require it yet or when you are just outside and are afraid of loud sounds that might hurt your ears – then you are overprotective and your ears never have to face those kind of situations they can handle and don´t hurt them yet. Everything at a level that could hurt your ears, you should use ear plugs for. It is recommended that for those sounds above 85 decibels to wear ear plugs. But it is also said that over a longer time period of time, so if you go to a noisy restaurant which could be at 85 decibels or above but just stay there to eat and for a drink and then leave you are ok. But if you work there every day for 8 hours – then it could have an effect.
They said to not overdo it and to wear ear plugs only if you really need them, otherwise the ears become more and more sensitive and will react to noisy environments quicker and quicker.
Of course it is all about your own comfort and you need to decide what is good for you and what not.
If you don´t know what tinnitus is and how it works – it will make you speculate and worry a lot more then when you have your facts straight.
So make sure to know what is going on.
Here are two blog posts that might help you with that:
Distraction – Attention Shifting – Masking
Distraction is always the first method recommended and many think it is hard to do. Because it is never louder than tinnitus. But it doesn´t have to be, because in order to mask tinnitus it might be necessary to turn the volume up to a level that would damage your ears, which then would not help your cause at all.
So it is about having something on if stillness is driving you crazy but at the same time trying to focus on that. As long as you think about tinnitus you will hear it. The KEY is to not think about it, which does not even when you try NOT to think about it. It only works by concentrating and shifting something else in your focus.
There is the example about NOT thinking about a pink elephant – and what did you just picture in your mind? A pink elephant, right? Because we can not NOT think about something. BUT we can think about something else.
So distraction, masking and attention shifting influence each other, because it only works if we combine them.
If you have more practice in it, you can shift your attention without distraction (masking sounds and what not). But until you feel ready for that – mask away!
Some blog posts that might help with that:
Do you and do what makes you happy
I have tried to spread this message since I have started my blog, but I have to admit that I was surprised that the doctors there were advocating that approach as it seems so spiritual.
They said that if we are happy, tinnitus doesn´t bother us as much as we are not even paying attention or are focused on enjoying life.
If we are stressed, annoyed and / sad – we get even more bothered by anything that doesn´t go as we want to.
So the more we follow our heart and what makes us truly happy the better we feel and the better we feel about tinnitus.
Our tinnitus very rarely changes, what changes is our focus, our evaluation, patience….making it feel like it is through the roof.
One doctor said, he uses it as a barometer that tells him if he is on the right path or not. If he hears it screaming, then he knows he has to change something. Sometimes nothing can be done about a situation and we just need to adjust our attitude – which can have a big effect. If I change my point of view of something and start to think of it as something positive rather something I don´t want to do or something negative, then tinnitus won´t “react” as strongly.
Stress is not a cause
This is something I have read so many times but when I talk to people, this is one of the causes they name.
Stress can not cause sudden hearing hair cell death.
Stress is just a side effect of something else, stress is something that makes tinnitus more clearly – sifting into our focus point.
There is no legit research that can prove that stress is a cause.
Let that sink in and not blame stress anymore.
What is stress anyway?
It is again an evaluation we make – something we say. Stress can be necessary to act on something but it can also indicate that we have a too heavy workload. It is an indicator that we are worrying to much or that something is not going into the right direction for us.
Stress can cause tinnitus to seem louder, as our focus shifts to it – same as in number 8. Plus, when we are stressed the blood pressure raises and that actually does cause tinnitus to “spike” as more blood or better said the blood rushes through the ears with more pressure meaning we can hear the sound more clearly.
So stress does have a subjective and objective effect but does not cause it.
This means stop worrying that stress has caused tinnitus but start working on reducing stress.
Start by not using the word stress all the time, is it just an evaluation we made. If we shift our point of view – it can change the way we see it. Make sure to manage your time, your priorities and start using relaxation techniques that work for you.
Stop over analyzing – let it go
You wonder all the time why you got it – how you got it and hunt down one promising cure offer after another. Only losing money and time…
If you do that – all you do is focus on your tinnitus very intensively.
The more we focus on it, the louder it seems – the more bothersome it gets and the more in influences one´s life.
That is why informing yourself is important, understanding how the ear works and what tinnitus is helps to let go of discovering the cause. It helps to accept that it is there and the only way to get out of the suffering stage is through learning to deal with it.
So that means, drop your questions and focus on something else.
All that guessing only drives you into feeling down and teaching your brain how bad it is, entering a horrible cycle that gets harder and harder to leave.
Stop that now – focus on what you want to do next and on what makes you feel good.
Those were the most important lessons I feel like. Many I already lived by which made me feel like I have come a long way. But it was still good to hear that from people that actually know what they talk about and that have years of experience working with people with tinnitus.
I know that for some people it is hard to accept that, and it was hard for me to. But the faster you do, the faster you feel better.
Once I stopped fighting and accepting it all changed, using the techniques to feel better made a huge difference too. But the work starts in the mind.