4 Tips for Living With Tinnitus

It’s the first sound that I hear when I wake up and the last sound I hear when I go to sleep. I hear it when listening to loud music or when I’m driving down the highway with the windows down. It follows me everywhere all the time for what could very well be the rest of my life — I’m only 31 so I may have a while to go. I’m referring to what I have come to call my “Forevering.”

The real name for what I am referring to is tinnitus. Tinnitus is considered a form of hearing loss that around 44 million Americans struggle with on a daily basis. It is characterized by a variety of sounds, from a mild buzzing to a slight clicking, or even presenting itself somewhat like the sound of rushing water. However, there are more severe ways tinnitus can manifest itself.

Many of those with tinnitus experience it as a deafening boom, a dial tone from a disconnected telephone held right up to the ear. I would say that my tinnitus is up there with the worst of them. The best way I can describe my tinnitus is as an incessant, pervasive ringing noise (hence my little soubriquet above). Imagine a loud bang has gone off directly next to you, and the resultant muted sounds of your environment along with the high-pitched whining that seems to cover it. That high pitched whining is the sound I hear every second of every day.

The worst is late at night. The ambient sounds of daytime hustle and bustle are gone. It’s quiet outside and inside, but alas, not for me. The quiet brings the deafening ring to the forefront of my awareness and sometimes threatens my very sanity. There is no cure for this, or even a real understanding of why it happens. However, I have found four different methods to combat this condition.

1. Use headphones. I use earbuds to listen to videos on YouTube or audiobooks to partially mask the Forevering. I find this especially helpful at night. Not too loud, though!

2. Ambient noise. Create as much ambient noise for yourself as possible. I’m talking turn on the fan, get yourself a little cheap water fountain. There are ambient noise apps you can download that are actually pretty awesome.

3. Embrace it for a while. Ugh! This one is the worst. I only have it on here because I have had tinnitus for three damn years and sometimes you don’t have headphones or fans or little babbling brooks to turn on. So in lieu of those things, you embrace your particular brand of the Forevering. Bathe in it, let it wash over you and let it know it can’t beat you down.

4. Talk to someone. Let people know you’re pain! I’m lucky because I have an awesome wife who listens to my lamenting. Really talk to someone about it though. A friend or loved one, a counselor or therapist.

There is an organization dedicated to finding better treatments and eventually a cure for tinnitus. These are the good people over at the American Tinnitus Association. Good luck out there to all my other Foreveringers!

Getty image by Marina ZG.

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