Treatments for Tinnitus
Tinnitus is not an illness itself but a symptom of another problem. It’s similar to pain in this respect. The goal of tinnitus treatment is to find relief from the symptoms.
How do you do that? There’s no one answer. Thankfully, there are several different treatment avenues that you can explore until you find something that helps you. Be patient — there’s often a bit of trial and error involved before you find the right option(s).
You may find many supposed cures for tinnitus on the web. Some work, some don’t work, and some are promising but need to be researched more thoroughly before we know for sure.
To help you judge between them, the British Tinnitus Association regularly reviews popular tinnitus treatments and guides you towards those that are both safe and effective. That can save you a lot of wasted money and dashed hopes.
So, what does work? It depends a bit on the most likely cause for your tinnitus.
Removing Excessive Ear Wax
This is a fairly simple one! If your tinnitus is caused by a build-up of wax that’s blocking your ear canal, then removing the excessive wax should help.
You can soften the wax yourself using a few drops of olive oil or some over-the-counter wax softening drops. Just drip these into your ear with your head tilted to one side. Often, a few days of this gentle treatment will soften the wax, allowing it to move out of your ear in the usual way. Resist the urge to scoop the wax out with a cotton bud or bobby pin! Forcing things into your ears causes more harm than good.
If you can’t shift the excessive wax, then see a professional. Your GP or audiologist may use irrigation or micro-suction to remove the wax.
All medicines have side-effects and, unfortunately, some drugs can cause or worsen tinnitus. If you’ve noticed a link between a certain medication and tinnitus, then talk to your doctor. It may be possible to reduce the dose or swap to a different medicine.
Age-related hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus. If you have hearing loss, then a hearing aid may improve your tinnitus as well as your hearing. Sometimes, the hearing aid is all you need and sometimes it’s one of several techniques used to manage your tinnitus.
If you need a hearing aid, then you’ll get the most benefit by wearing it throughout your waking hours. It can seem very odd at first but you will get used to the feel of the device and to the sensation of normal sounds. And your audiologist will follow up with you regularly to check that the device is working, fitting well and meeting your needs.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
This is one of the most effective treatments for tinnitus. That may seem odd since it’s about your thought process rather than your hearing. And yet it has been shown to significantly reduce depression and improve quality of life for people living with tinnitus.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment where a trained professional uses relaxation techniques to reduce your stress levels, challenges your thoughts about tinnitus and helps you get used to its presence so that it bothers you less. You’ll usually have several sessions with a psychologist.
More studies are needed on this before we can confidently say it works but many people find it helps, especially with acute tinnitus symptoms.
Sound therapy is the deliberate use of any sound that makes you less aware of your tinnitus or less bothered by it. Many people find tinnitus especially annoying in quiet environments so they might play background music while reading or listen to some nature sounds while falling asleep.
Living with any long-term condition can be hard, especially since it comes on top of all the usual stresses of life. Making a deliberate effort to relax can really help you manage your tinnitus in the long-run.
Deep breathing exercises slow your heart rate and help you calm down. You can do them anywhere since there’s no special equipment required. Or you can download a relaxation app or join a tai chi or yoga class.
Continue doing those things that bring you joy. It’ll help to squeeze tinnitus to the edges of your life rather than allowing it to take centre stage. This is your show, after all.