The first step in managing tinnitus is to see an audiologist and physician to determine possible causes for the tinnitus.
With the help of a medical provider, an appropriate plan can be determined to eliminate, treat, or remediate the underlying problem or pathology triggering the tinnitus. However, addressing the underlying problem may or may not eliminate or reduce the tinnitus.
Initial Tinnitus Management Strategies
Patients who are most successful in managing their tinnitus take a proactive role in the process. The following recommendations enable patients to try and reduce the severity of their tinnitus and increase tolerance to the tinnitus.
- Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
- Discuss medications’ potential ototoxic side effects with a physician.
- Reduce excessive doses of aspirin with physician’s approval.
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and tonic water, which contain quinine (the same substance as the medication used to treat malaria).
- Reduce exposure to ototoxic chemicals.
- Check and monitor blood pressure.
- Decrease salt intake; salt impairs blood circulation.
- Exercise daily to improve circulation.
- Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
- Manage stress.
- Utilize a fan, soft music, or low-volume radio static to help mask the tinnitus.
Secondary Management Strategies
Some patients may require additional management strategies. Audiologists can help determine the best management strategy necessary.
Hearing aids can provide considerable relief to individuals with tinnitus and hearing loss. Hearing aids can reduce the perception of tinnitus by masking the tinnitus with amplified environmental sounds. Patients who wear hearing aids may perceive a mild or complete reduction of their tinnitus in addition to improved hearing.
Masking devices resemble hearing devices but are designed to produce low-level sounds that can reduce and in some cases eliminate the perception of tinnitus. Masking devices can also produce the phenomenon of residual inhibition where the reduction or elimination of tinnitus perception continues for a short time after the masker is removed.
Tinnitus Habituation Counseling
Relief from tinnitus can often be achieved by training the patient to habituate to their tinnitus through the combined use of cognitive-behavioral therapy and counseling, modified to fit indivdual needs. Habituation occurs when the patient is no longer aware of their tinnitus except when they focus their attention on it; even then, the tinnitus is no longer bothersome or annoying. In addition to one-on-one patient/clinician counseling and habituation therapy, treatment often requires sound therapy in the form of hearing aids or tinnitus maskers.
Information obtained from Bauman, N. G.(2003).2nd Edition, Ototoxic Drugs Exposed., Guide Post Publications. Stewartstown, PA., www.mayoclinic.com, www.entnet.org, and www.calear.com,