Tinnitus is common in Albany, affecting about one in five residents. Characterized by phantom sounds in the ears—most often described as a ringing, though a variety of sounds have been reported—this symptom (it’s not a medical condition itself, but rather, a side effect of another disorder) can be so bothersome it creates mental distress. There is no cure, but help is available for the 50 million people in New York and throughout the U.S. who are affected.
Tinnitus Affects Everybody Differently
One of the reasons researchers have been unable to find a cure for tinnitus is because it produces such a wide range and degree of symptoms. No two cases are alike; one person’s tinnitus might come and go randomly, while another’s could be a constant presence that interferes with their ability to function normally. It can negatively impact concentration, memory and sleep.
The Negative Impact of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be so debilitating, a recent Swedish study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found it is associated with higher suicide rates. Another study in the American Journal of Audiology identified a link between suicidal and self-harm thoughts in adults who had experienced mental illness such as anxiety, depression and anger during childhood.
How common is tinnitus?
Anxiety, stress and depression are common in people with tinnitus in Albany. It’s estimated that 75 percent of individuals with severe tinnitus suffer from these and other behavioral disorders, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Yet few medical professionals discuss the mental health burden associated with tinnitus. Addressing these issues can significantly improve the quality of life for tinnitus sufferers in New York.
Techniques to manage Tinnitus
There may not be a cure, but management strategies incorporating sound therapy (such as white noise), hearing aids, counseling, meditation and relaxation exercises and tinnitus meditation therapy have all been shown to help reduce symptoms (or at the very least, lower the patient’s perception of his or her symptoms).
Caroline J. Schmidt, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Yale Medicine in New Haven, CT, says,
“Audiologists should be aware that patients with tinnitus are potentially fragile emotionally, especially during the early months following onset of tinnitus.”
Strategies for Easing the Burden of Tinnitus
Your Albany audiologist has some mental health strategies for reducing the burden of tinnitus. These include:
- Acceptance. Learning all that you can about tinnitus will help you understand that it is just a sound that triggers emotional responses in the brain.
- Turning negative thoughts into positive ones. When you are able to stop dwelling on the negatives of tinnitus, which you have no control over anyway, and focus instead on reality-based reasoning, you’ll be able to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It helps to develop a mantra you can repeat to yourself whenever you are feeling your lowest.
- Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Tinnitus frequently interferes with sleep. You can increase your odds of getting a good night’s rest by listening to white noise (try an app or white noise machine, or simply turn on a fan or air conditioner), avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime, limiting your use of electronic devices that emit blue light in the evening, sleeping in a fully darkened room and turning the thermostat down to 60-68 degrees. Practicing deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises (guided apps are available) can be helpful, too.
- Keep enjoying your favorite activities. It’s easy to skip out on pursuits you once enjoyed when tinnitus symptoms flare up, but remaining active and enjoying favorite hobbies and pastimes helps keep you connected to people and activities you love, preventing isolation and the mental side effects associated with it.
Living with tinnitus isn’t easy, but it’s important to remember that help is available. You have options! Please contact an audiologist in Albany if you are experiencing a ringing or other sound in your ears and feeling at your wits’ end.