But today, I want to talk about their new aviation earplugs because flying can present a huge challenge for tinnitus and Meniere’s sufferers.
Tinnitus and Air Travel:
Between the unhealthy foods sold in airports, the stressful nature of a long day of travel, and the changes in atmospheric pressure while airborne, there are a lot of factors that can cause problems.
During flight, airplane cabins are pressurized, but only to about 6000-8000 feet above sea level. And depending on where you off from, that can add up to a significant and rapid change.
Showing off my new earplugs to baby Zack on his first flight!
If you’ve flown before, you how much take offs and landings can affect your ears. Ear fullness, popping, and pain are all common because the air pressure in your inner ear doesn’t change as fast as the air pressure of the cabin, causing the eardrum to swell inwards or outwards.
Now I want to be clear that barometric pressure changes are not one of my major triggers. Occasionally, a storm front rolling in will trigger a temporary spike in my symptoms, but it’s rare, and I generally don’t have problems equalizing the pressure in my ears when I fly.
So when I tested these earplugs on two different flights, I focused on how well they equalized the pressure in my ears for me. And I was surprised at how well they actually worked.
On both flights, the pressure in my ears remained equalized more or less the entire time they were in my ears.
I also found them very comfortable and they worked really well as normal earplugs too, offering about 20 decibel noise reduction at the same time.
They are very discreet, – it’s hard to tell you’re wearing earplugs
Now I should mention that this technology is not exactly new, a disposable version of this kind of earplug called Earplanes has been around for a long time. But Earplanes are only good for 2 or 3 flights and don’t offer much in the way of noise reduction, whereas the Eargasm aviation earplugs are reusable and have a far more durable filter.
Final Thoughts: Are they worth it?
Are the Eargasm Aviation earplugs worth the money for tinnitus and Meniere’s suffers?
But it’s also important to know that cabin pressurization problems primarily affect the middle ear, rather than the inner ear, which is potentially affected by tinnitus, Meniere’s disease, other vestibular disorders.
So if changes in barometric pressure are a big symptom trigger for you, these may not give you the level of protection you might be hoping for on flights. But you still will likely get some protection, and so in my opinion it worth giving them a shot.
So I hope you guys give these a try! And if you’ve tried them already, be sure to leave a comment below!
The one thing I was not able to test was whether or not these earplugs can help protect you against changes in barometric pressure when not flying, so if anyone else has these, please comment on this as well!
NOTE: Eargasm was nice enough to send me a free pair of their new aviation earplugs to test out. I receive many free products (and purchase many products too) but only ever end up writing about a very small percentage of them that work for me and that I stand behind and actually use. Some of the links featured in the post are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase a product through these links, Rewiring Tinnitus may receive a small commission that goes toward the maintenance cost of the website.
When you live with tinnitus, a normal trip to the dentist can quickly become a living nightmare.
For starters, dental work can be stressful all on its own. Even before I struggled with tinnitus this was always an issue for me. After a few bad experiences with a horrible dentist in my early twenties, I had severe anxiety at every dental appointment for a long time.
Unfortunately, tinnitus sufferers often have a lot more to worry about because dental work can make tinnitus worse in a number of ways.
Between the uncomfortable seated position, having to hold your jaw open for long periods of time, and the loud, high-pitched cleaning and drilling tools, tinnitus spikes and fluctuations are extremely common during dental work.
The good news is there are many things you can do to make trips to the dentist a lot easier to endure.
Dental hygienists often use ultrasonic plaque removal cleaning tools which are problematic for tinnitus sufferers. Not only are they very loud and extremely high pitched (often in the 12,000 -15,000 Hz range), but they transmit sound through the bones of your skull directly to the inner ear, so ear plugs won’t protect you. In fact, earplugs can actually make it seem louder by blocking out all the other noise.
Luckily, these tools are not mandatory. The next time you go in for a cleaning, explain your situation and ask your dental hygienist to use the manual plaque removal tools instead of the ultrasonic ones.
Ask your dentist to drill in short bursts:
Dental drills are a problem for the same reasons as the ultrasonic cleaning tools – they are loud, high pitched, and the sound is transmitted via bone conduction straight to the inner ear. But unlike the ultrasonic cleaners, there aren’t any alternative tools. When you need a dental procedure, you probably won’t be able to avoid the drill.
The best strategy is to ask your dentist to drill in short bursts, and to take breaks in between. Explain your situation and concerns to your dentist and ask them to drill in short 5 second bursts, with breaks in between each burst. This can help to offset the impact and intensity of the noise from the drill.
Break up dental procedures into multiple visits:
It won’t always be possible to split up your dental work into multiple office visits, but you should always ask, especially if you need to have a lot of work done. Less time in the chair means less chance of having tinnitus related issues.
Earplugs won’t help you to reduce the decibel level of dental equipment, but sound masking can make it a little bit easier to endure. Listening to music, white noise, or nature sounds through headphones can provide a sort of buffer against the noise, similar to how partial sound masking is used to help people cope with tinnitus.
Background noise creates an environment where the drills and other dental tools aren’t the only things you can hear, which in my experience can make a big difference. Just remember to keep the volume at safe levels.
Progressive muscle relaxation:
Even when I’m just going in for a cleaning, I find myself constantly tensing up in the dental chair. Dental work is often stressful, and that stress/anxiety causes us to tense up, which can make your tinnitus worse.
The solution is simple: pay attention to your body, and consciously focus on relaxing your muscles. This will help you to stay calm and will reduce the stress and anxiety you experience.
Brainwave Entrainment Audio for Deeper Relaxation:
Brainwave Entrainment is a mind-altering audio technology that can induce specific changes in your mental state, like deep relaxation, with nothing but sound.
Here’s a basic overview of how it works:
How you feel changes your brainwaves in a very precise way. In fact, there is a predictable and measurable brainwave pattern directly associated with every possible mental state you could ever experience. But you can also temporarily change your mental state and how you feel, by changing your brainwaves with an external audio stimulus. This effect is called brainwave entrainment.
By simply listening to a brainwave entrainment audio track embedded with the frequencies that correspond with deep relaxation, you can trigger powerful relaxation and deep sedation within minutes at the push of a button. As you can imagine, this can be super helpful in the dentist chair.
For years, I used brainwave entrainment audio to help me relax at every dental appointment. It worked really well to help me combat the horrible anxiety I experienced, even before I suffered from tinnitus. And now you can try it too!
The Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project is a brainwave entrainment audio program I created to help people cope with and habituate to their tinnitus. It features a wide variety of tracks with different brainwave entrainment effects, some of which are designed solely for the purpose of inducing a deep state of relaxation and sedation in a matter of minutes.
Hearing is believing! Click play on either of the free samples below to experience the incredible anxiety relieving power of Brainwave Entrainment. Listen with headphones or a decent set of speakers and with your eyes closed. As you listen take slow, deep, steady breaths and watch how quickly brainwave entrainment audio can relax you.
(IMPORTANT:Read this disclaimer before you listen as these samples are extremely sedating.)
Tinnitus Relief Project: Deep Relaxation Music Sample - SoundCloud (600 secs long, 5769 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Tinnitus Relief Project: Deep Relaxation Waves Sample - SoundCloud (595 secs long, 3800 plays)Play in SoundCloud
If you already own the Tinnitus Relief Project Audio Program, use the deep and light relaxation tracks.
Make a Plan:
Sometimes, just having a plan in place to deal with potential problems can make you feel a lot less anxious at the dentist. In fact, this kind of planning is actually good for facing the fear that many tinnitus patients experience in all kinds of situations.
Holding your mouth open wide for a long period of time puts a lot of tension into the muscles around your jaw, which can be problematic for some tinnitus sufferers. Jaw tension is a common trigger of tinnitus, and for many people, clenching your jaw muscles or even yawning can cause your tinnitus pitch or volume to change.
The Tinnitus - Jaw Tension Connection & How to Relax your Jaw Muscles - YouTube
So the next time you are in the dentist chair and your jaw muscles are sore, tense, or tired, practice the following jaw muscle relaxation exercise as much as you can:
If you live with tinnitus, going to the dentist doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little bit of planning, the right approach, and a few helpful tools in hand, you can make the whole experience a lot less stressful. And you can prevent difficult tinnitus spikes and fluctuations.
I hope everyone gives these suggestions a try! If you have any other helpful dentist tips or strategies, be sure to leave a comment below!
I get a lot of emails from CBD companies who want me to try their products. It started shortly after I made my first video about how much CBD helps me manage my tinnitus.
I turn down most of the offers, because the products are either too expensive, or there just isn’t anything new or compelling about the company. But my plan was always to try as many different CBD products as I could, and to tell you about it when I found something interesting.
Finding the right CBD product that works best for you can take time. Everyone seems to respond differently to different products. Sometimes you have to try a few companies, types of products, and different dosages to find what actually works best for you.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to test out a whole bunch of amazing new CBD products.
So today, I’m going to tell you about some of my experiences with one of these new companies called Joy Organics, whose CBD products helped me manage my tinnitus during one of the most challenging times of my entire life.
Full spectrum CBD without THC:
Joy Organics is definitely a premium brand. Their CBD products are a bit more expensive than some of the other companies I’ve reviewed, and I haven’t tried everything they have to offer – only their CBD oil and softgels so far.
But they’re doing some incredibly creative things that really caught my attention and make it worth the price.
First and foremost, their whole product line is THC-free, but still contains full spectrum hemp extract. All of the other beneficial compounds found in the hemp plant – the cannabinoids and terpenes – are present, but an extra step was taken to remove the trace quantities of THC from all of their products.
Technically speaking, the trace amounts of THC in full spectrum CBD oils is an important part of the entourage effect. But if you are one of the many people who don’t want any THC in your CBD supplements, for whatever reason, Joy organics THC-Free, full spectrum products should be a more effective option than CBD isolate alone.
CBD oils, pills, drink mixes, and more!
Joy Organics offers some really interesting CBD products.
My experience with the oil and softgels has been excellent. As many of you know, the past few months have been incredibly difficult for me and my wife Megan.
In the last 10 weeks since our first son Zack was born, we successfully completed a round of IVF to freeze embryos, Megan started chemo therapy for breast cancer, we traveled with the baby to upstate New York to participate in our close friend’s wedding, and my grandfather passed away, also from cancer.
It’s been stressful beyond words and my Meniere’s symptoms have been worse than they’ve been in years. I haven’t had vertigo, but my tinnitus has spiked over and over again and I’ve been extremely dizzy. It’s the closest I’ve been to a full-on Meniere’s episode in a very long time.
Fortunately, CBD has helped me immensely and Joy Organics was in heavy rotation throughout this time.
My experiences so far:
The main benefit I get from CBD is relaxation, or more specifically, anxiety and stress relief. And because anxiety and stress are such big symptom triggers for me, it helps me to manage my tinnitus and other Meniere’s symptoms indirectly.
Joy organics has a slightly different effect from many of the other oils I’ve tried. It’s very calming, but in a less drowsy kind of way, making it better for daytime use, at least for me. It tastes great too. The tranquil mint flavor is quite minty and has not even a hint of the hemp flavor of other oils, at least not with the concentration I tried.
When I take the oil sublingually, I experience a calm focus that has really helped me to push through difficult days. That pit of my stomach feeling that I get with anxiety melts away, and my other symptoms (like dizziness) seem to subside to a degree.
Interestingly, I like their CBD softgels better. The effect is the same for me, but a bit stronger and it lasts a lot longer. I actually discovered recently that I benefit more from CBD pills than I do from oils, across the board. I’ve purchased and tested a bunch of different CBD pills and softgels from different companies to start testing this more thoroughly. More on that soon!
Over all, I highly recommend Joy Organics, especially if you are looking for a more effective THC-free CBD option.
But I also think it’s worth trying new CBD products like Joy Organics from time to time, even if you’ve already found one that works well. You never know how you might benefit! I now take different CBD for all kinds of different reasons and applications.
So, if you want to give them a try, I was able to get a 10% discount code for everyone!
NOTE: Joy Organics sent me these products for free to test out. I receive many free products (and purchase many products too) but only ever end up writing about a very small percentage of them that work for me and that I stand behind. Some of the links featured in the post are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase a product through these links, Rewiring Tinnitus may receive a small commission that goes toward the maintenance cost of the website.
**A slightly modified version of this article originally appeared on my other website – MindOverMenieres.com**
Parenting a newborn baby is hard. Parenting with tinnitus and Meniere’s disease is a lot harder.
As some of you know, my wife Megan gave birth to our first child, Zack, on August 12th at 3:05 pm. After a difficult 40+ hour labor, our little guy was born healthy and happy!
The past few weeks have been truly incredible, but also some of the most challenging experiences of my entire life. I’ve honestly never felt such a confusing whirlwind of emotions.
After a stressful and complicated high-risk pregnancy that pushed us to our limits, I was really worried that Meniere’s disease was going to rob me of the moment I would finally meet my son. (It didn’t, but it didn’t do me any favors either.)
And now that things have calmed down a bit, I want to share what it was like to support my wife through an incredibly difficult pregnancy, and what it’s been like to be a new parent with Meniere’s disease.
The C word:
For the first few months, Megan’s pregnancy was picture perfect.
Aside from the occasional odd food craving, she was sleeping better, less stressed, and didn’t experience any morning sickness at all.
Every doctor’s appointment and test result brought good news – no genetic or chromosomal problems, the baby was developing beautifully, and best of all, we were having a boy (Megan didn’t care but I always wanted a son!)
Everything changed in an instant on May 31st.
We were waiting in line to get on a flight to visit my family in Maryland, where family friends were throwing Megan a baby shower, when Megan got the call.
Suddenly, she was crying hysterically. She couldn’t speak, so I grabbed the phone. It was her obstetrician.
“I know you’re about to get on a plane so I’m really sorry to have to tell you this. The baby is going to be fine, but the biopsy results came back – Megan has invasive breast cancer.”
Panic squeezed my chest as I fought back tears, and I suddenly felt very dizzy. The anxiety spiked my tinnitus and Meniere’s symptoms nearly instantly. But I had to be strong for Megan. We had only minutes to call family and no time at all to process the news.
My mind raced the entire flight, “Is she going to die? Is the baby going to be okay? How are we going to deal with this?”
I had no answers and didn’t dare ask the questions out loud.
It was a terrible flight.
Family is everything:
The diagnosis cast a dark shadow on what should have been a wonderful trip. But in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.
We were surrounded by loved ones the entire time. Our close friends and family showed up in droves. We were never alone. And we got our first glimpse of hope almost immediately.
Once everyone knew what was going on, a family friend and one of the lead researchers and oncologists at Lombardi called us to give us an idea of what to expect.
She would likely need surgery, possibly chemotherapy or endocrine therapy, or all of the above, and that more testing would reveal the best course of action. He stressed that it was going to be a difficult experience, but in the end, the baby would be fine, and Megan would be, too.
He also helped us get an appointment with one of his colleagues at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
The trip was difficult. But our family made all the difference in the world.
Cancer, Pregnancy, and a husband with Meniere’s disease:
When we got home, the doctor’s appointments began – so many doctor’s appointments.
But a plan was finally coming together. Before anything else, Megan was going to need a lumpectomy to remove the tumor in her breast.
In the days leading up to the surgery, I was stressed beyond comprehension. I would toss and turn in bed for hours as my mind raced with anxiety, every single night. Megan wasn’t doing much better. Surgery is scary enough when you’re not 32 weeks pregnant.
I’m happy to report that the procedure was a resounding success, but it was also one of the longest days of my entire life. After only 4 hours of sleep, we got to the hospital at 5:30 am and I didn’t get back to the hotel until after 10 pm.
The waiting gets to you pretty quickly. Hours would pass with no news at all. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. My mother and father-in-law were with me for most of the day.
When the surgeon finally came over to give us the good news, I broke down in tears.
Megan and the baby made it through surgery without any complications whatsoever.
In the days and weeks that followed, the rest of the plan slowly fell into place.
We were hopeful at first – our oncologist said there was a good chance that Megan wouldn’t need chemo.
But then the genetic testing results came back showing a high risk of reoccurrence. She would need chemo after all, and we were going to have to induce her at 37 weeks to make sure she had time to recover from giving birth before starting treatment.
We also found out she was going to need radiation after chemo, and several years of endocrine therapy in the form of hormone blocking medication.
It was a hard pill to swallow. With such a difficult road ahead of us, it was hard to enjoy the weeks of relative peace.
Between doctor’s appointments, I worked as hard as I could. The medical bills were already pilling up, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work very much once the baby arrived and Megan started treatment. My stress levels creeped higher and higher.
To complicate matters further, the increased stress not only triggered my Meniere’s symptoms, but other health problems as well. After weeks of horrible coughing, laryngitis, and the constant need to clear my throat, I was officially diagnosed with GERD and Laryngopharyngeal reflux.
We just couldn’t catch a break. I already felt so run down, and it was only going to get more and more difficult.
We had help lined up, but I was terrified that I would end up having to take care of both Megan and Zack, keep making money, all while somehow finding time to take care of myself.
Still, I couldn’t wait to meet the little guy.
After so much uncertainty, so much chaos, the big day finally arrived – or so we thought.
Because Megan was going to start chemo about 6 weeks after giving birth, it was extremely important for us to avoid a C-section if at all possible.
The plan was to start the induction, but not force it. We hoped she would deliver quickly, but if she didn’t go into labor right away, we would stop and try again the next day. What we didn’t know was how difficult this would be for Megan.
In the end, it all went according to plan, but that meant an extremely long and painful labor, with intense contractions for multiple days.
I slept about 4 hours the first night and not at all the second night. I was running on pure adrenaline, trying to comfort Megan through hours of intense pain. It’s a miracle that my symptoms didn’t flare up.
Things got a lot easier once they finally started the epidural. So much so, that Megan experienced the birth without any pain whatsoever and got to actually appreciate the moment.
It was smooth sailing until we found out the cord was wrapped around his neck.
But it ended up not complicating the situation very much. While Megan pushed, the doctor used a suction cup to help pull him out more quickly, until finally Zack was born!
When I heard him cry for the first time, I broke down in tears. I was so relieved. He was as healthy as can be. In fact, he’s the healthiest of the three of us.
After so much adversity, after so much heartbreak, everything was finally okay.
He was so beautiful. I felt so much love.
Being a new parent with Meniere’s:
The last four weeks have been a roller coaster of higher emotional highs than I’ve ever known, frustrating lows, and a mixed bag of Meniere’s-related issues.
Everyone said to pay attention, that the time would fly by, and it definitely has. Each day seems to blur into the next. Part of me feels like we just left the hospital yesterday. The other part of me feels like it has been an eternity.
For the first week or two, my symptoms flared up a bit – some tinnitus spikes, fatigue, brain fog, ear fullness, and dizziness – but nothing too serious. I felt my health fraying at the edges, but I somehow kept it together despite the sleep deprivation.
Interestingly, one thing that has really helped me over the last few weeks is CBD. I’ve been testing out a fantastic new company called Joy Organics that makes full spectrum CBD oil and softgels without THC, which is something I’ve thought should exist for a long time, but never actually found, until now.
Their CBD oil has been a lifesaver over the past few weeks and has kept my anxiety under control through incredibly challenging moments. (At some point soon, I’ll post a more thorough review.)
Meniere’s disease has made parenting more challenging than it should be, and I haven’t even had any major episodes.
As a new parent, I’ve felt so many beautiful emotions like love, awe, and pride. But every wonderful moment is accompanied by encroaching Meniere’s symptoms and fear of what’s to come.
Facing the mountain:
For now, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. I still have nothing resembling a routine or balance in my schedule, and between all the responsibility of being a parent, and all the doctor’s appointments, I’m only able to work a few hours a day.
It’s why I haven’t posted much in a while, either here or on social media. I’m going to do my best to post when I can, but it won’t be on any kind of schedule for the next few months. Until this post, I’ve only had enough time to work with my tinnitus coaching clients.
Moving forward, Megan starts chemo in less than a week. She also started fertility treatments 10 days ago to create and freeze embryos because there is a good chance we won’t be able to have any additional children naturally once she’s done with chemo.
We’re facing a mountain of adversity.
But right now, it’s the calm before the storm, and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment with Zack as much as I can, savoring every smile, hiccup and funny face.
Acceptance is the emotional outcome of habituation.
When I talk to tinnitus sufferers, people often say, “If I could just accept my tinnitus, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
I know exactly what they’re trying to say, but it’s not helpful to think about tinnitus in those terms, because severe tinnitus isn’t something you can just magically accept.
To be clear, I’m not saying that acceptance isn’t possible – it definitely is – and it’s important.
It’s just not something that you can force. Acceptance happens automatically as you habituate. You could even say that acceptance is the emotional state of habituation.
How you think about tinnitus matters:
Part of the problem here is that many people habituate naturally over time but don’t actually understand why or what happened.
When you hear someone say, “I just accepted my tinnitus and it isn’t so bad anymore”, they most likely habituated naturally but don’t understand what happened well enough to explain it in those terms.
And when you’re suffering, it doesn’t help to hear people speak like this. It can make you feel like you’re failing in some way, like you’re struggling to grasp some obvious answer.
But these people didn’t figure something out that you haven’t discovered yet. They habituated naturally, possibly without trying. They’re the lucky ones. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone. It wasn’t for me. I had to work very hard to habituate.
Acceptance happens automatically:
The other problem with this type of acceptance-oriented thinking is that conscious control of tinnitus is impossible, even for someone who has fully habituated.
If my tinnitus spikes in some way, whether because of stress or if I accidentally expose myself to loud noise, I can’t just flip a mental “acceptance” switch in my brain to turn the volume down or force my attention away.
The experience of habituation is a lot like happiness or the feeling of being in the zone – that feeling when you’re enjoying yourself so much that time speeds up or slows down, where you are totally immersed in the present moment, enjoying some activity to the fullest extent possible.
When you’re experiencing that level of happiness or enjoyment, it’s happening automatically. You can’t choose to feel that way. And more often than not, as soon as you start thinking about how good you feel, you lose the feeling because you’re no longer in the present moment, just going with the flow.
Habituation is similar in the sense that you can’t think your way into tuning out the sound. It just starts happening as your nervous system stops reacting your tinnitus as the sound of something dangerous. You just start tuning it out automatically, more and more of the time.
And when it spikes, or starts bothering you, you can’t just flip a switch in your brain to instantly tune it out again. You can do other things that create the environment necessary for this to happen quickly, but it’s an indirect level of control.
If you’re suffering and struggling to accept your tinnitus, you’re not doing it wrong. Acceptance will happen automatically when you’re on the right track with habituation. It can’t be forced.
And just because you haven’t habituated yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for you. Habituation is entirely possible with the right strategy, a bit of hard work, and time.
When you live with tinnitus, or any other chronic illness, fear can infiltrate every aspect of your day.
It’s not irrational fear either. When our tinnitus can spike at any moment, it affects the decisions we make, it keeps us locked in houses, and prevents us from making plans.
Part of my philosophy of chronic illness is to fully understand the nature and extent of my limitations.
When you know exactly what you’re up against, you can reasonably predict how certain choices will affect you, and you can make decisions with open eyes. Or to put it another way, when you understand your limitations, fear doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in the choices you make.
How to Make Plans Without Fear:
So how can you apply this type of thinking. The next time someone invites you to participate in an activity that you enjoy, don’t just say no out of the fear that something could go wrong.
Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
1) Will I enjoy myself?
It’s a simple question, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. Because pushing yourself and taking a risk solely for someone else’s benefit may not be a good reason to participate.
2) What could go wrong?
Write down everything that could go wrong if you go and do the thing you want to do, including the worst-case scenario. This will give clarity to your fears.
3) How can I Prepare?
What can you do to ahead of time to minimize the risk and what steps can you take to prepare?
4) What can I bring with me to address potential problems?
This could include things like medications, supplies, or emergency equipment.
5) What will I do if things go wrong?
Plan out how you will get to safety and how you will recover afterward.
6) Knowing all this, is it worth it?
It may not always be worth it.
Accept the Possibility of Consequences in Advance:
If it’s worth the risk, make the decision to participate, fully accepting the potential consequences in advance. Then go and enjoy yourself as much as you possibly can.
If things do go wrong, you’ll be prepared. You’ll have a plan in place to deal with problems as they arise. You also won’t be nearly as disappointed as you might have been, because you will have already accepted the possibility of consequences.
It may not end up working out in your favor, but fear didn’t hold you back from living your life, and it just might go well the next time.
Have you ever noticed that when you’re in pain, you feel compelled to keep messing with your injury to see how much it hurts?
For some reason, we tend to focus on pain with an intensity rarely seen elsewhere in our lives. And it’s not just physical pain. We do this with health problems, like tinnitus, too.
In fact, one of the most frustrating aspects of living with tinnitus is the strange, exhausting impulse to constantly measure the sound.
Sometimes, it’s a compulsion to check and see if your tinnitus is louder now than it was before. Other times, it’s an obsession – no matter what you do, you just can’t stop thinking about the sound. The rest of the time, however, it manifests as horrible and intrusive negative thoughts in the form of rumination.
When it happens, our natural instinct is usually to just try and ignore the sound, so we can go back to whatever it was we were doing. But we rarely ever win that battle.
In fact, I believe it’s the wrong approach entirely. It’s almost impossible to think our way out of this kind of intensely negative emotional experience. We’re not thinking rationally in these moments. We just react emotionally, automatically, without thinking at all.
But you always have the power to break these negative thought patterns and take back control in these difficult moments.
It just takes a little bit of work.
1) Stop researching tinnitus on the internet:
Obviously, I understand the irony of this advice – you’re researching tinnitus right now. But it’s important to consider, because there’s a very good chance that Googling tinnitus is making your tinnitus worse.
You see, most people aren’t tortured by tinnitus at first. In those early days, there’s still hope. You don’t understand what’s happening to you, and while it’s scary, most people can handle it when they think it’s a temporary problem. The fear begins when it doesn’t go away.
Because you’ll likely find case after case of the worst suffering imaginable. Your worst fears will be confirmed, panic sets in, and the vicious cycle of suffering begins.
There is always hope, and the very real possibility of relief – you just may not find it right away. So pick a treatment strategy, commit to the process, and stop researching tinnitus.
2) Understand the problem – it’s not the sound
There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but you can get to a place where it stops bothering you. Your brain is fully capable of tuning it out like it does all other meaningless background noise with a mental process called habituation.
But there’s a problem: when it’s bothersome, your brain is interpreting the sound of your tinnitus as something dangerous. And it’s impossible to ignore a dangerous sound. (You would never want to not hear the sound of something actually dangerous)
Our brains simply can’t tell the difference between real danger and an imagined threat like tinnitus. Our fear makes the danger real, whether it’s real or not, so the reaction is the same. We have a stress response that doesn’t end because the tinnitus doesn’t go away.
It just gets worse, because we start to associate the fear, frustration, anguish, depression and anxiety with the sound itself.
But you can change the way you react to the sound emotionally. And when you do, your brain will start to tune it out automatically, more and more of the time.
Whether you are trying to habituate or break negative thought patterns in a difficult moment, you need to understand that this is an emotional and psychological problem. And ignoring these kinds of problems generally makes them worse.
3) You can’t think your way out of an emotional experience – but you can act your way out
When it’s bothering you, don’t just fight to ignore the sound. It’s a losing battle. Most of the time, you won’t be able to think your way out of this kind of intensely negative emotional experience. But you can act your way out by changing the situation.
Anytime you experience any of the following:
A spike, fluctuation, or change in volume, pitch, or sound
A moment where it’s more bothersome than usual
Obsessively noticing, measuring or focusing on your tinnitus
Try the following technique (I call this the Tinnitus Reaction Technique):
Stop what you’re doing and sit down.
Think about the hours leading up to this moment, recognize that it wasn’t bothering you as much until right now. Become aware of how long of a good period you had leading up to this moment.
Close your eyes, feel your body go limp as you relax your muscles, focus on the tinnitus and take several deep breaths.
Remind yourself that you were okay before this moment and that you will be okay again – your tinnitus will calm back down.
Choose a coping strategy or coping tool and use it immediately. Remember, the goal is to break the rumination and negative thought patterns by doing something else entirely. Coping techniques include anything that masks the sound, relaxes you mentally or physically, or distracts you from the sound.
You just need to do something else long enough for your nervous system to calm down a bit. The spike will pass eventually, they always do.
This technique won’t necessarily reduce the volume of your tinnitus, but it can help you to cope far more effectively in a moment of suffering. It will take practice, but over time, this technique becomes more and more powerful.
Plus, if you’re actively working to habituate, distractions, masking, and relaxation techniques become more than simple coping tools. Because the more relaxed you are, more of the time, the faster you will be able to stop reacting to the sound emotionally.
4) Preventative coping
For some reason, when people are bothered by tinnitus, they often find it difficult to get up and actually use the tools that help them better cope.
For example, sound masking is a simple way to cope with difficult tinnitus moments. Just put on some background noise. Easy, right? Well maybe not, because you won’t always think to do it right away.
Remember, this is an emotional problem. If you’re having obsessive thoughts, can’t stop focusing on the sound, or even if you’re just having a difficult moment, you’re caught up in an intensely negative emotional experience. You’re reacting to the sound automatically and acting out the behavioral patterns of the vicious cycle on auto pilot.
Becoming aware that it’s happening, and mindful enough to actually make a conscious decision to do something about it, is a much bigger challenge than most people realize. But you can make it a lot easier with a simple strategy I call preventative coping.
All you have to do is practice using the coping tools that help you deal with tinnitus, every day, even when your tinnitus isn’t bothering you. The repetition makes it far more likely that you’ll remember to actually use the tools and techniques that help you when you need them most.
Just to give you an idea, here are some of the helpful coping tools I recommend practicing on a regular basis:
5) Use helpful routines to prevent morning rumination:
Mornings are often a difficult time for tinnitus sufferers. When you wake up and the first thing you hear is the sound, negative thoughts can quickly bubble up to the surface.
It’s also hard to sleep with tinnitus. You may be waking up early in the morning – earlier than you wanted to wake up. A lot people end up tossing and turning in bed, thinking negative thoughts and ruminating over the sound.
The easiest way to deal with this is to plan out the first 20 minutes of your morning routine. When you wake up (even if it’s early) get out of bed right away and put on some music, background noise, or better yet, an inspirational podcast or entertaining radio show. And once you’re up, start your morning routine immediately. Don’t even give your brain the chance to start ruminating or thinking negative thoughts.
This technique won’t prevent rumination later in the day, but it will help you start the day off on the right foot. The less you ruminate throughout the day, the better off you’ll be.
The compulsion to constantly focus on the sound is a frustratingly difficult challenge for many tinnitus sufferers. Even if you’ve started to habituate, the smallest fluctuation or spike can often bring you right back to the sound.
At times, the obsessive thinking and rumination can be worse than the tinnitus itself.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, at least not forever. You can build resilience by learning to stop these negative thought patterns in their tracks. And as a result, you can improve your quality of life and accelerate the process of habituation.
Until there’s a cure for tinnitus, that’s what matters most.