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Tinnitus tips

On November 23, I developed mild tinnitus. I’ve been hearing a constant sound in my head. The sound is a mid-pitched whistle or whine similar to what you hear through the wall when your neighbor is vacuuming. The principal frequency seems to be about 1.1 kHz. Here’s the closest I could get when trying to generate the sound in my tone generator.

The volume is not high – the sound is overpowered by the refrigerator in my kitchen, the sound of water flowing in the pipes in the bathroom. I can often hear it over my PC (several very quiet fans + quiet 7200 rpm hard drive) or during a conversation in a quiet room when nobody is talking.

As I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about tinnitus, I want to share some tips that helped me get over the initial shock and go back to living normally. Much of the advice in this FAQ is based on what I’ve read about Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), the leading clinically proven tinnitus treatment.

What causes tinnitus?

Sometimes tinnitus is a side-effect of taking certain drugs, or of another condition, such as earwax buildup, ear infection, hypertension or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

Most commonly, tinnitus is experienced after exposure to loud noise. The basic mechanism seems to be that noise knocks out some of your hair cells (temporarily or permanently). This shuts off the signal to auditory neurons in your brain, causing them to go haywire. As with most brain-related things, the details of how this happens are poorly understood.

Tinnitus caused by exposure to loud noise usually goes away in a few days. However, it could also become a long-term problem. Long-term tinnitus is associated with hearing loss. Between 60 and 90% (depending on the source) of tinnitus patients have some degree of hearing loss. This is, however, not a true explanation of tinnitus, because the majority of hearing-impaired people don’t have tinnitus, and a significant percentage of tinnitus patients have normal hearing (especially among younger people).

Here’s a good overview of possible tinnitus causes from the American Tinnitus Association.

When will my tinnitus go away?

If you were recently exposed to loud noise (for example, you went to a concert), you may just have temporary tinnitus that will go away in a few days. (By the way, if you have acute noise-induced hearing loss, it may be a good idea to rush to an ENT and ask for immediate steroid therapy to prevent permanent hearing damage.)

In many other cases, tinnitus goes away on its own within 2-3 months. In still others, it takes 2-3 years. On the other hand, there are people who have had tinnitus for over 20 years. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any reliable statistics that would show what percentage of cases resolve within a few months. The best I could find was this informal survey.

What can I do about my tinnitus?

You can go to a doctor in case your tinnitus is due to something that can be fixed or treated easily.

You can try one or more remedies recommended by tinnitus patients – vitamin B12, magnesium, ginkgo biloba, caffeine withdrawal and paracetamol – for each of these, you will find people who swear it reduces their tinnitus. And you can certainly avoid wasting your money on the countless “tinnitus cure” scams ran by unscrupulous assholes all over the Web.

Other than that, there is currently no proven method of rewiring your brain to make tinnitus disappear completely and permanently. There are therapies that can lessen tinnitus or even make it disappear (e.g. notched music therapy), but their effect is temporary, i.e. they must be continued indefinitely if the effect is to be maintained.

However, you can do two very important things:

  1. You can stop the noise from bothering you.
  2. You can learn not to notice the noise.

If you achieve these two goals, tinnitus will be no more of a problem for you than the color of the walls in your apartment. It will still be noticeable, if you choose to notice it, but it will not be an issue.

Dr Stephen M. Nagler described this beautifully in his introduction to Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (the page I’m quoting is no longer available online; here’s the closest I could find):

TRT is not a cure for tinnitus.  It is a treatment approach designed with the goal of tinnitus ceasing to be an issue in the patient’s life.  It is designed with the goal of making tinnitus into a pair of pants.  Ninety percent of the time, people are unaware of their pants.  The 10% of the time they are aware, they do not “cope” with their pants, they do not “deal” with their pants, they do not “learn to live” with their pants, and they most certainly do not spend any time worrying whether the following day will be a “good pants day” or a “bad pants day.”  They simply wear their pants; and when the goal of TRT has been met, tinnitus should be just like that!

How do I stop the noise from bothering me?

The first thing you must realize is that the sound itself is not that much of a problem. Unless your tinnitus is uncommonly severe, the noise in your head probably does not interfere with your hearing in a significant way.

The real problem is that (1) you are paying attention to the noise and (2) you are reacting to it in an emotional way. In neurological terms, the auditory stimulus leads to a stress response. You find the sound disturbing, you can’t think about anything else, your heart is racing, you can’t fall asleep at night – all these problems are not due to tinnitus; they are due to your emotional reaction to tinnitus.

Does it have to be this way? No. You are probably surrounded by many sounds that are objectively louder than your tinnitus, yet you don’t give them a second thought. Every day, you sit in front of a computer that has noisy fans and hard drives, but you don’t obsess over it. While driving, you’re exposed to the sound of traffic and your own car, sometimes for hours, but that does not make you miserable. Airline pilots spend half their lives in the noise of jet engines, but they don’t make a big deal out of it. The only difference between tinnitus and those “everyday sounds” is that you interpret those other sounds as “normal background noise”.

As I sit in front of my computer writing this post, I am surrounded by potentially annoying stimuli. I hear the drone of the washing machine that’s running in the bathroom, the whirr of the hard drives in my computer, and some sounds of traffic outside the window. I am wearing eyeglasses that put constant pressure on my nose and ears; worse still, their rims impose themselves on my field of vision, putting a useless blurry border around whatever I’m looking at. To the right of my screen, there is a network router with bright LEDs blinking at irregular intervals. And whenever I move in my chair, it makes a fairly loud squeak. All of these things can be seen as irritating, yet none of them bothers me in the least bit.

There is no objective reason why I should be completely indifferent to all these stimuli, yet be disturbed by tinnitus. After all, tinnitus is just another sound I can’t do anything about.

Your emotional reaction to tinnitus is a matter of attitude. And attitudes to stimuli can change. I remember very clearly that I used to be annoyed by the ticking of the wall clock in my room, to the point that I had to take it down. Guess what? I recently hung it again and now I kind of like it. To take another example, there are people who are annoyed by the noise made by children playing in the playground. Often, the same people will find it much less annoying (or even pleasant) once they have their own children and begin to associate the sound with something pleasant.

It is helpful to realize that most of your negative attitude to tinnitus comes from the initial shock. If you had been born with tinnitus, would you worry about it? Certainly not. For you, it would be the way the world works – much like the fact that you have to blink every 20 seconds or so. Some people who have had tinnitus since childhood are indifferent to it to the point that they believe it is completely normal.

Finally, here are some positive thinking tricks to “make friends” with your tinnitus:

  • think of it as the “dial tone of the universe” (not everyone can hear it, you’re among the chosen ones!)
  • think of it as a noise that your brain makes when it’s working (it’s good to know your brain is working, isn’t it?)
  • think “my invisible force field is on and is protecting me” (this one was suggested by Thomas Tang in the comments here, I think it’s great)

What is partial masking?

Partial masking is a good technique that can help you stop reacting emotionally to tinnitus. Surround yourself with some sort of noise that blends with the sound of tinnitus without obscuring it completely. Good sources of noise include computer-generated noise, recordings with sounds of nature (rain, ocean, mountain stream, etc.), fans, radio static, air humidifiers, etc. There is a good free online noise generator over at Remember that if your goal is to reduce your emotional response to tinnitus, the tinnitus should still be partially audible over the masking noise. The reason is that you cannot get used to something you don’t hear. You can then gradually decrease the volume of the masking noise until your tinnitus becomes as boring and unworthy of attention as the buzz of the refrigerator in your kitchen.

Does tinnitus deprive you of silence?

Among tinnitus patients, there is a tendency to think “I will never hear silence again”, but it is worth noting that humans are incapable of hearing complete silence anyway. In a well-known study by Heller and Bergman (1953), out of 100 tinnitus-free university students placed in an anechoic chamber, 93% reported hearing a buzzing, pulsing or whistling sound.

How do I learn not to notice the noise?

At the core of tinnitus is The Loop. The Loop is my own term for the positive feedback loop created by the following two mechanisms:

  1. The more attention you give to your tinnitus, the louder it gets. (What happens is, you are telling your brain “This sound is important/threatening, I need to hear it more clearly”.)
  2. The louder your tinnitus is, the more it attracts your attention, which in turn makes it even louder, and so on.

This is a vicious circle that can be extremely hard to break out of. In the first few days after my tinnitus appeared, I gave it so much of my attention that eventually I could hear it even while watching TV.

The loop starts when you focus your attention on the noise. Once you let yourself do that, the noise will get louder, making it much harder to get your mind off it. So Rule Number One is: don’t start The Loop. Whenever you find your attention wandering towards the noise, use your will to immediately focus on something else. Get busy. Slap yourself on the face. If you’re trying to fall asleep, try counting. Remember how miserable you felt the last time you let yourself focus on the noise. Do whatever it takes to take your mind off the tinnitus. If all else fails, mask it with music or some noise. Use the “Reddit maneuver” for short-term relief. But whatever you do, don’t start The Loop.

Learning to take your attention away from tinnitus takes training. One technique that helps with this is having a loud ticking clock in your room. The moment your attention wanders towards the tinnitus, focus on the tick-tock instead. Counting tick-tocks is also a good way to fall asleep.

Tinnitus gets louder when you are anxious about it, so anything that reduces your overall anxiety level is helpful. There are drugs that are known to help, but exercise works great, too. If you make yourself feel so tired that you can barely move, it’s really hard to think about tinnitus – when your body is aching, all you can think of is how good it feels to lie down and rest. I would also recommend experimenting with cold showers or cold baths. In general, anything that causes (safe) pain is good because once the pain is gone, you experience the opposite feeling: bliss, warmth, energy.

Note: an earlier version of this post mentioned Xanax as a possible remedy for tinnitus-related anxiety. However, Xanax (and other benzodiazepines) produce dependence and can be very difficult to quit. If I were to take the medication route, I’d look into other anxiolytic drugs first.

If you haven’t heard your tinnitus for some time, don’t listen for it. Don’t ask yourself: “Do I hear the noise now?” or “Has it really gone away or is it just temporarily masked by ambient noise?”. In the first weeks after I got tinnitus, whenever it stopped being noticeable, I would go to a quiet room and put on my isolating headphones to see if it really went away. I did this many times a day and all it did was make me notice my tinnitus again. In the end, I had to set a rule: I am allowed one “tinnitus test” per day, when I get up in the morning. For the rest of the day, no checking.

Remember: If you listen for tinnitus, you are just training your brain to hear it better. Don’t do it. Focus on other things in your surroundings and your life.

What if I’m already in The Loop?

Ah, yes. When you’re in The Loop, your tinnitus seems so loud that it’s like a tiger in your room – it seems damn near impossible not to pay attention to it. In addition, the stress you are probably experiencing does not make it any easier to exercise mental control.

Still, you have to help yourself. You have to get out of The Loop somehow. Here’s a method that worked for me: Mask the hell out of it and go to sleep. When you wake up the next morning, use every ounce of self-control you have to focus your attention on things other than the tinnitus. Keep telling yourself: if I let myself focus on it, it will just get bigger and even harder to ignore. Whenever your thoughts start wandering toward the tinnitus, slap yourself on the face or pinch the back of your forearm (this serves as negative reinforcement). The goal is to develop a mental habit to distract yourself every time you start thinking about your tinnitus. As time passes, it will get easier and easier to distract yourself when tinnitus becomes noticeable.

It can be hard to keep this up for the whole day, especially in the beginning, so use masking liberally. (Full masking is not recommended in Tinnitus Retraining Therapy because it removes the noise completely rather than letting you get comfortable with it, but my experience is that when you’re going crazy from listening to your tinnitus, masking it partially doesn’t make you any calmer. There are times when you need emergency measures.)

When you cannot help but pay attention to your tinnitus and it’s beginning to stress you out, you can try the following mental technique that I’ve found very effective. I call it the Refrigerator Trick. The trick is to imagine that the sound of tinnitus is made by an actual device in the room, perhaps a small refrigerator. It’s amazing that simply having that thought brings about instant stress relief. As soon as the sound is associated with an everyday object, it seems the brain no longer has any reason for alarm. Once the tinnitus is classified as an “everyday noise”, it is much easier to take your mind off it. To make this visualization more convincing, you can picture what the refrigerator looks like, where it’s standing, etc.

Useful resources on tinnitus

  • Dr. Nagler’s Tinnitus Site – a very well-written site with tinnitus information and support, by Dr Stephen Nagler, who is a tinnitus patient himself. His advice is based on Pawel Jastreboff’s Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) model. Make sure to check out the Articles section.
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) page by Pawel Jastreboff. TRT “uses a combination of low level, broad-band noise and counseling to achieve the habituation of tinnitus, that is the patient is no longer aware of their tinnitus, except when they focus their attention on it, and even then tinnitus is not annoying or bothersome”.
  • Tinnitus Support Message Board – the largest and best forum for tinnitus patients
  • Tinnitus success stories from real people
  • – a free online noise generator
  • Plasticity – I made a free brain training game that may change your perception of tinnitus – see below

Update (Sep 2011)

I still have tinnitus, but have become indifferent to it to a degree I would never have thought possible. Basically, now it’s like the sound of the hard drive in my laptop. Sure, I notice it sometimes, but I don’t focus on it; I just go back to whatever I was doing. I’m certainly not sitting there writing an e-mail on my laptop and thinking “OMG, here’s the damn hard drive noise again, why won’t it stop?”. Needless to say, I don’t check the intensity of my tinnitus every day anymore. In fact, I’ve gone weeks without noticing it.

I used to be scared of going to sleep without masking sounds, as the silence at night brings the tinnitus out. Now it’s no big deal: I don’t pay attention to it, and on the rare occasion that I do, it doesn’t bother me; it’s just “that familiar sound” to me.

Update  – Plasticity (Aug 2012)

In April 2011, I wrote an HTML5 game called Plasticity with the objective of rewiring my auditory cortex and thus reducing my tinnitus. The idea was simple:

  1. Some neurons are firing in my auditory cortex (since I hear the tinnitus).
  2. The cortex can reorganize in response to training.
  3. Conclusion: I’m going to train my auditory cortex and see how that changes the perception of tinnitus.

Did it work? It’s hard to say. I was of course hoping for a dramatic, unmistakable result – a total cure. That didn’t happen. I thought I noticed some improvement in the course of my training, but that could have easily been simple placebo effect. After a month of using Plasticity every day, I went on a short foreign trip. During that trip, I noticed that I was able to fall asleep without masking noise for the first time since I got tinnitus. When I got back home, I decided to stop using masking at home as well. I also stopped using Plasticity. In the following months, my tinnitus gradually became a non-issue for me. I would still hear it, but only if I tried to. It would no longer hijack my whole brain. Since the auditory training was effective (I did get better at recognizing sounds, as evidenced by better scores), I think it’s possible that the training somehow changed my brain’s neurological response to tinnitus. I wouldn’t bet money on it, though.

Anyway, I have now made Plasticity available to everyone on the Web, so you are free to try it if you wish. (Here’s some more information on the scientific justification and tips on how to use Plasticity.) It’s totally unproven, but, unlike the countless fake cures on the Internet, it’s also totally free (though I’d be really grateful for your donations if you can afford to spare some money).

Update – (Sep 2013)

Well, OK. The bad news is that my tinnitus got worse. The good news is that it didn’t really upset me. It only bothered me a bit for 2-3 days, then I quickly forgot about it.

How did it get worse? Well, there was a loud concert that I went to with a friend. My friend wanted to get closer to the stage, and, like an idiot, I followed her, even though the music was already uncomfortably loud where I was standing. In other words, there was a red light but I ignored it. Needless to say, I won’t be attending any loud concerts anytime soon. Which is fine with me, I’m more of a home listener anyway.

The concert left me with a threshold shift (reduced hearing) and a whistling sound in my left ear that persisted for about 3 days. My hearing came back to normal (for a while I was worried that it would stay that way), but the whistling never went away. It is much louder than the tinnitus I have in my right ear.

Now I am 90% sure that my original tinnitus was caused by noise as well (another super-loud concert). So here’s a public service announcement: If you have tinnitus, avoid loud noises, such as concerts in enclosed spaces like clubs.

How did I get over it? Same as before, only 100 times faster. (I’m getting good at this!) I used a bit of masking, Plasticity, plus exercise to relax, but mostly it was just the familiar “don’t let yourself think about it” technique. Initially, I felt pretty bad – mainly because I hated myself for making such a stupid mistake and because I was afraid my hearing would be permanently impaired. After a couple days, though, I started paying less and less attention to it, and now I don’t think about it as an issue anymore. Actually, I am quite proud of how quickly I stopped caring about it.

Good luck! Remember to post your comments here.

455 Comments so far

  • Jack Raytheon

    Thanks for helpful tips. I developed tinnitus 9 months ago. It has been one hell of a shock ever since. It sounds 10 000 Hz in the head 24/7. I hope to habituate soon because obsessing over it just makes it worse. Again, thanks.

    • Chris

      Has anyone had any experience with the Levo Treatment. It was featured on a national news cast as help for tinnitus sufferers?

  • Sarinne Fox

    Very helpful and informative post — thanks! Love Dr Nagler’s “pants” analogy! 🙂

    For people who have tinnitus, it’s worth considering that it could be caused (or triggered, or worsened) by a drug. Here’s an article with a partial list of drugs that can damage hearing either temporarily or permanently:

    • Chris Mallory

      It is better to deal with tinnitus by not using drugs. People thought there are similarity between drugs and supplements but the real truth is they are different especially for Tinnitus issue.

  • Albina

    Wow thanks for sharing, this really gave me hope, I also have a minor ringing after going to a loud club night, it has been about a month which seems like its getting better. Also mind if I ask, has your ringing progressed ? did it get any better then it was? Thank you!

  • meyerwhWill

    That was a really useful article, many thanks, almost felt as if my tinnitus eased as I was reading! I’ve had mine for years now and it changes from day to day but always good to read about others who also suffer but who have taken a positive step to getting over it.

    One thing I would add is that exercise is incredible at de-stressing and therefore reducing the amount that tinnitus effects your life – after a run in the morning everything seems brighter even if you have rining in your ears.

    • Tomasz

      I agree. My life is so much better since I started exercising (running, swimming, cycling). After a nice run, my mood is great for the whole day, and even the next day I can feel a little more “oomph” than usual. Back when my tinnitus really bothered me, exercise was like a vacation away from the anxiety. I still heard the noise, but it no longer had the power to upset me.

      • Diego

        Have you had problems sometimes with swimming? I do waterpolo and sometimes, next day I have the feeling that the tinnitus has developed a little bit more. Is there any real danger with water, or maybe it is just my mind?

        • Tomasz

          Yes. If water gets in your ears, it can block them slightly. Because all the ambient sound is softer, the tinnitus seems louder by comparison. For me, tilting my head and shaking it vigorously right after swimming removes the water.

        • Claudia McGill

          I’m a former competitive swimmer and after 50 years of swimming, here’s my remedy: put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in the ear, let it sit a few seconds, then turn your head and let it drain out.

          Should clear out any water.

        • Tomasz

          I used to use that technique. I diluted rubbing alcohol with warm water and put it in my ear with a syringe.
          When I told an ENT about it, he advised against it because alcohol can irritate the skin in your ear and make it too dry.
          Nowadays, I just use the head shaking technique; works for me.

  • Arnell

    Thank you.

  • Shubham Malik

    thnx a lot 🙂

  • Morten Melsom

    Thanks for these helpful and good tips. I developed “T” 4 months
    ago and my life has changed completely . I`ve been in and out of the loop many times now and after reading your tinnitus tips; I`m inspired to take back the control of my life!!
    Thanks 🙂

  • LB

    Thank you! Developed it about a month ago during a wax blockage and infection episode combined with a highly stressful life situation. I can tolerate it fairly well while active but sleep has become a problem, both drifting off and remaining asleep for more than a few hours. Working to shake it off. This is very helpful.

    • kalyan kuppuswamy

      very very helpful… thank you so much for sharing the perspectives… i developed tinnitus year ago and the frequency was less…now past 2 weeks had been hell with T.


  • Kevin

    Thanks for your work on this!

    For what it’s worth here’s my story:

    One month ago I was on vacation in Asia going to loud clubs most nights. I have professional earplugs but got caught without them. I was beside an insanely loud speaker on New Year’s Eve for a couple hours which made my left ear physically hurt for 3 days; the pain resided but the tinnitus has been here since – It’s been 4 weeks exactly now and it’s about half of what it was but still noticeable all day and all night.

    Similar to the comment above I arrived home to a horribly stressful situation (unspeakable really) – this along with jet-lag gave me less than 4 hours of sleep per day for 3 weeks – I think this had a lot to do with exacerbating the tinnitus.

    My insomnia was so bad I saw a doctor who first prescribed 1 Xanax at bedtime – this helped me forget the Tinnitus enough to sleep for 3-5 nights but then it’s effect wore off. Next he gave me Zopiclone as it’s considered less addictive. It knocks me out and I find every time I get a good sleep I wake up feeling a little less concerned about the Tinnitus and also the volume of it decreased.

    I have seen an audiologist who advised that compared to the last time I was tested 4 years ago I have lost 5-10% of my hearing in both ears (not just the left that got so hurt on New Years) BUT that my hearing is still (barely) in the normal range.

    For more information I got myself referred to an ENT specialist 3 days ago who advised my ear drum pressure was normal both sides (which apparently is great news as drum trouble would be a much worse outcome); he however did put me on oral steroids (prednisolone) for 4 days and advised me that this is the best known possible fix for tinnitus after an audio assault on your ears – he also noted that it works best if administered right after the incident (not 4 weeks after as in my case) and that it works more often for younger people like teenagers who had a loud bang at a shooting range or something like that (not so much for a 41 year old guy like me who has been around loud music for decades).

    I share my story as I am only 4 weeks into this as a record for myself and anyone else who may benefit from what I have written.

    Thanks again for your great summary article.

    • Tomasz

      Thanks for posting this, Kevin. In my experience, good sleep is crucial — my tinnitus always flares up when I’m sleepy and is almost nonexistent right after I wake up, when I’m well rested. Your condition will get better for sure — the only question is, how much better? I still can’t believe how much my tinnitus has improved over the past year or so.

    • Hillary

      Kevin– I’m having almost the exact same experience as you. I went to a concert with my son 5 days ago and my ears have been ringing like crazy ever since. It is so upsetting because the last time I went to a concert I had earplugs in the whole time–I knew better! We assumed because it was a bluegrass concert it wouldn’t be too bad. I have gone to the ENT and he put me on prednisone, but beyond that he only wants to check my hearing to see if I have loss in the higher frequencies. Everyone is saying it will eventually get better–but it’s hard not to assume the worse . This is the first sight I have come across that has not sent me into a complete panic. It’s actually helpful and positive. I can cope with this if I know it will lessen over time–it’s hard to believe right now that it will. I would love to hear how you are progressing. I am 45 years old and am reminded how delicate I am in my old age!!

  • Kevin

    Thanks for that Tomasz – I just got back from a big birthday party of 30 people at a noisy chinese restaurant – looking quite foolish in ear protection I’m trying out for a month – while on the inside wrought with worry over this mess. I’m cutting my hours back at work immediately to focus on health and wellness!

    I’m happy to have found this site and made your acquaintance.

    For anyone following this thread I forgot to mention that my ENT specialist also closely examined my TMJ (I often grind my teeth at night); he recommended I wear a night guard – which I had and started using again after a month off – and it has helped at least my sleep, and thus my ring.

  • eriklb

    This blog is really inspiring. I have been really struggling and suffering from Tinnitus for 7 weeks. It has totally changed my life. I was under much stress, depression, anxiety and lack of sleep. Tinnitus thrives in those situations. Today I am much calmer and ready to take my life back and not let tinnitus rule me. I was here first, I am in charge.

    Please keep updates on your Tinnitus progress. I think your tips are wonderful.

  • David

    Thank you so much for your post Tomasz. I’ve just recently got tinnitus and I had a lot of fear and anxiety from it. Your post is Very inspiring and makes me feel much better about it. I can’t say it’s a severe from of tinnitus, sometimes I don’t hear it at all. I can swear it’s not there, but then it comes back, and goes away again. Time’ll let me get used to it, that’s if it doesn’t go away completely..

    Please keep us up to date on your progress!

  • Rick

    Thank you so much for this “positive” information.
    As Hillary mentioned, a lot of the tinnitus info online is very doom and gloom oriented, makes things worse.
    I’ve had tinnitus for about a month now, just woke up with it one morning. No concerts, no loud noises but I do wear an mp3 player when I exercise so I suspect I may have had the volume too loud.
    I was very panicky at first but this blog has helped me a lot and by the way, the free “thunderstorm” mp3 file at simplyNoise is a great masker (1 hr long), very peaceful sound when I’m trying to get to sleep.

    Thanks again for all the useful info and positive reinforcement.

  • grumpygeologist

    Nice write up. I’ve had tinnitus for about the last 30 years now and have been living most of your recommendations. In fact, the first time I heard my tinnitus today was when I saw the reference to your article and started reading it. I find that having soft to medium noise in the background – nice music or the television left on, the tinnitus just disappears – or as suggested, nature sounds etc., mask it completely. Background noise can be soft.

    Something that caught my attention in the comments from Hillary(?) attending a concert with her son where she forgot her earplugs and sustained some damage. Yikes!! If the sound levels are so high that she has to wear ear plugs or risk damage, why is her son or other children at that concert – risking a lifetime of damaged hearing??? Why do concerts where children attend have to be THAT loud?? If I had children, I would never allow them to attend and event where their hearing could be damaged.

    Just my $0.02 and worth every penny you paid for it.

  • Rick

    Hello all tinnitus sufferers,
    I am a computer tech by trade so naturally my tendency is to troubleshoot. What can I do to help relieve these non-stop ringing/buzzing/hissing sounds.
    I’ve been searching the web endlessly and blogs have been extremely helpful.
    So I discovered a site:
    that has audio files of various tinnitus sounds.
    Personally, I hear crickets, a high pitched non stop sound 24-7 and I found an audio file on this site that matched my particular tinnitus affliction:
    I listened to it with earphones on an endless loop with earphones for 10 minutes or so.
    I removed my earphones and was astounded that I no longer heard the tinnitus sounds.
    Now, tinnitus is such a mental thing and your brain will bring it back if you’re looking for it.
    But I think I’m on to something here. Listen to a similar sound externally and the internal sound gets cancelled out.
    I’m curently a day without tinnitus and I try to remain calm in my success.

    I would love to hear from fellow sufferers, check out this remedy.

    Rick Nellis

    • Rick

      Only fair to report my tinnitus has returned after 2 days of “non-cricket” heaven. Back to the drawing board. Off to see an ENT next week but i’ll continue my own trial and error approach.
      The mp3 files do offer relief, tinnitus volume is lower afterwards.
      But I woke up this morning with it loud and clear.

      • David

        Hi Rick. I haven’t had tinnitus for very long (3 months approximately) but I did notice it comes and goes. I can go for 1 week without it and it comes back. At first I thought it was gone for good but it bounces back. Who knows, maybe some day it’ll go and never come back.

        Have a great day!

        • Rick

          Thanks for the reply David. there’s a lot of comfort in knowing you’re not alone with this strange condition.

      • Tomasz

        Rick, you might want to try Plasticity – an auditory training game that I just made available. Who knows — it might offer some relief (I would be thrilled if it did). See the update above for more details. Good luck!

  • paul

    Thanks for this. This blog was the turning point for me in calming down about my recently aquired accoustic injury tinnitus. It was instrumental on sending me on a rational positive path. Now out of the bad loop, and into a good one, and although the tinnitus is still there it is rarely my focus and I don’t react to it emotionally anymore and am actually my happy self again.

  • Tak

    I have tinnitus, after driving home on a sunny afternoon last week. The sound was very bothering, so I decided to look it up in the web. Needless to say, all of the websites I’ve stumbled across scared me a lot more then what it is. Most of them were quite negative. Now, I’ve found your block and you are probably the only positive person describing this symptom. It’s been a week already and I still have it. I really hope it will go away soon. In addition, I hope your tinnitus will be gone soon. All the best to you.

  • barbara

    You may find this of interest: New sound therapy device based on hearing research conducted at UC Irvine. FDA cleared device, available nationwide.

  • grkow

    Excellent insight provided regarding avoiding obsessing over the noise.

    It was somewhat ironic I had a recent bout with “T” given my preference for total silence, even when surfing, which is why I retired a noisy desktop for a laptop which produces virtually no noise by comparison, and speakers are always muted.

    After 59 years of perfect health, which never required a family physician or check up I experienced an unexplained, 4 week episode of “T”. Was anxiety the cause? After 3 weeks of vitual total isolation the intermittent hum in the left ear gradually subisded and absent by week four. I can now look back with amusement at the first night I began documenting the hum, having attributed the invasive noise to something that had to be related to the house or other external source. Google “The Hum” and you will find very little mention of tinnitus, but much about strange events akin to bigfoot.

    Yes, I was developing coping mechanisms during my short episode of “T” but there can be no doubt I prefer life without the unwanted and univited companion. August 29, 2012 to September 22 is a time period I am unlikely to forget.

  • Naomi Lichtner

    Makes me feel a lot better! Especially the part about humans not being able to hear total silence anyways; I never really thought of it that way. I have a slight case of T for a little over a year now, and totally feel the heart rate racing and anxiety when I notice it. I found a great music track that provides amazing relief and am keeping myself so busy that I simply don’t have the energy to freak out about it! I am still a bit concerned though, because I am only 22 and like going to parties etc. Even though I am usually wearing earplugs (and am the only one of my peers to do so) sometimes it seems they don’t work. But I am gonna try this approach – and keep going to parties I suppose because I can’t let this control my life! And at 22, who knows maybe its just comfy and will eventually leave.

  • Matt

    Thanks for the well-thought out tips, Tomasz. Seems like the raging scientific debate is whether tinnitus is a symptom of existing hearing loss made worse by stress, or directly opposite, whether the tinnitus noise itself blocks the listener’s ability to hear frequencies over the noise of the tinnitus. Wondering if you’ve found a way to see if the tinnitus is causing hearing loss, or if the hearing loss causes the tinnitus.

    Also, hoping to get someone’s opinion on whether hearing loss may have been caused by running on a treadmill indoors for about 58 minutes three to four times a week for a few months (in training for a race). My smartphone measures the decibels of the machine between 85-90 DBs, sometimes spiking briefly at 92 or 93 for just a second or two. Thanks all.

    • Rick


      One thing I’ve had confirmed by 2 different ENT specialists is that hearing loss causes tinnitus. I’ve had 3 seperate hearing tests and have substantial loss in the higher frequencies. This high frequency range is now replaced by the noise in my ears/brain, tinnitus.
      Just an FYI, I saw Pete Townsend on David Letterman last night discussing his tinnitus, he says that he’s gotten a lot of relief from taking herbal medicines from his homepath,

    • David

      Hi Matt,

      Hearing loss causes tinnitus, not the other way around. 90 DBs of sustained sound is where hearing loss starts to occur. At that level, it would take hours on end to have permanent hearing loss, around 8 hours I believe. It would be very surprising that your treadmill caused your hearing loss.

      Stress does affect the way you perceive tinnitus. The limbic system is responsible for your habituation to it. It’s like when you’re wearing clothes, you don’t feel it unless you think about it. Well tinnitus is the same. After some time, your brain will get accustomed to the sound. Stress can make it seem worse because your limbic system is busy dealing with your stress.

      How long have you had your tinnitus? If it’s been within a month, I implore you to go see an ENT ASAP to have a steroid given to you. It could save your hearing. If I would’ve known this myself, I would’ve probably saved myself from tinnitus.

      • Vicki C

        I just found this blog–have had tinnutis for over a month now…
        thought it was left over from bad sinus infection where I went through two antibiotic RX and a steriod 5-day pack then RX for bronchial inhalor (another type of steroid) and another prednisone. During that time I flew home from FL and when the plane was decending my ears popped and my ringing went away…once the sinus infection started up, I had problem with ringing…
        Finally went to my dr who said he could see no obvious reason and did cursory auditory test–said I had loss in both ears.
        I went to ENT today and had audio test–found reduced hearing in my left ear (where the ringing is) and nothing in my right. I told this doctor about my sinus infections and the RX w/prednisone and that about two years before my husband and I had been in a serious car accident but thankfully not had any severe trauma–just seat belt trauma…but the airbags front and side came out. I asked if the air bags could have damaged my ear. He said that was distinct possibility–and that yes, it could have taken this long to make the damage known…I am a 65 yr old woman who was never into loud music, don’t use headphones, worked as teacher where noise was constant but not like machine shop…

        I don’t know what to believe–I am taking an over the counter allergy antihistimene proscribed by my family doctor in case there is any fluid in inner ear–but the ENT didn’t ask about that–he proscribed what I think is a tranq of some kind which I probably won’t take…wasn’t ready at pharmacy when we went by after the doctor visit.

        Neither one recommended another round of steroids since they both said tthat using steroids–even Advil–can cause this problem.

        Frankly I have noticed NO change in my hearing except for the difficulty witth the ringng interfering at time…I understand that damaged hearing can cause the tinnitus–but it doesn’t always…since I didn’t have an auditoryy test before this started, I guess I don’t axiomatically believe that tthe hearing loss is so severe that it is causing it now…

  • Matt

    Thanks David for the informed and thoughtful comment. Your validation that I didn’t do in my hearing — by trying to be physically fit — is a huge comfort. And thanks for the comments on how stress can amplify tinnitus.

    My tinnitus started more than two years ago. Saw a general practitioner at the time who said it might go away, or it might not. Then went to a renowned hearing clinic, about six months ago, where I was told there really isn’t anything that can be done. Pretty discouraging.

    Curious if anyone else has found ways to calm the limbic system and allow it to help filter out tinnitus. Any suggestions would be appreciated. “The Loop,” as Tomasz described so beautifully, can be a powerful gravitational force to overcome.

  • George J Cook

    Thanks. Kind of you to share. I’ll try your game too. Mine comes and goes.. I’m generally good at not getting in the loop; but seem to have unwittingly entered it again in the last week.. your tips will no doubt help.

  • Sherwin

    As I’m writing this, I realised that I too might be suffering from tinnitus. Had some pain in my right eat and I’ve noticed soon after the pain I started hearing a soft high pitched sound in the background at the moment its bearable and I can deal with it. Im still not sure if it’s indeed tinnitus or just because I have colds and stuffed nose. Should go to my doctor and have it checked? Is there any special diagnostic procedure that will be done to confirm if I really have tinnitus? Aside from the ringing sound, are there any other associated sign and symptoms along with it? Like headache vertigo dizziness lost of balance to make sure that it is. Trying very hard to calm myself down and not to panic. Please help me! And I just wanna what different types of sounds of tinnitus. Does it vary to different individual? Is there any site on the net that mimic the sound of tinnitus just to compare it to mine. Didn’t sleep well last night had panic attacks. Thanks so much in advance

    • Tomasz

      If you haven’t had it for a long time (like 2 weeks), chances are it’s just some passing symptom, especially if you have a cold. It’s possible that your ear has a wax buildup, which can cause a ringing sound (at least in my case it does) — usually you can notice some discomfort or the fact that your hearing is slightly worse in one ear.

      • Kevin

        Hey I’m just getting over an ear infection or acute otitis externa. I’ve had the ringing in my ear for about 2 weeks (a little less). Could it just be a symptom of the ear infection? My family doctor gave me a z pack antibiotic and antibiotic ear drops to treat the infection. In thinking about going to see an ent if not better soon. Any advice would be helpful. Thank you

    • David

      If the ringing is recent, I suggest you go see your doctor asap and get their opinion. Hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus. Have you had exposure to loud noise for a prolong period of time? If you did, tell you doctor about it. I know that steroids can help cure your hearing loss if taken soon after the trauma that caused the loss itself. Tinnitus varies in sound depending on the individual. Tinnitus may make your ear may feel “stuffy” or “plugged” at times. It can also cause vertigo if the tinnitus is sever enough. Good luck, and try to stay calm, stress can make it seem worse.

  • Elin

    i have it too it really has changed my life it has made me very ill if lost out on many sleeps and the sounds are loud it can be to hard but u have to be strong and fight it make friends with it as thy say

  • Rick

    Hello all.
    This is just an FYI to all new tinnitus sufferers. I first developed my tinnitus the first week of July 2012 and it scared me. I was looking around my apartment for what was causing this noise until I realized that the source was internal, not external. After a few visits to an ENT I learned that I had hearing loss (specifically in the high frequencies) which was causing my tinnitus.
    The good news: I still have it but have learned to live with it. Some days I don’t notice it for hours at a time. So relax, exercise, live a healthy lifestyle and be cool. I’m grateful that I still hear most of what goes on around me. The tinnitus is now just a part of me, and not so annoying when you understand the cause: namely, hearing loss. We’re all getting older and hearing loss goes with the territory.

  • Tom Schultz

    I’m glad I stumbled upon this block as it has given me a great deal of insight into my tinnitus problem and some possible self-help measures I can take to possible help control my reaction to it. I started having tinnitus in February during the course of a severe sinus infection. While my sinus infection finally was cured the tinnitus has remained and seems to have actually gotten worse. What concerns me most is that over the past month or so I’ve noticed that my tinnitus actually picks up everyday sounds, water from a faucet, the air freshener, humidifier, the fan on my computer, etc and increases in intensity. I suppose most of the sounds are of the high-frequency type and I do have a high frequency hearing loss. I was fitted with hearing aids and the hearing aid specialist stated the sounds of tinnitus should remain more or less constant and that I was probably getting some sort of feed-back. This is not the way it is with me, I know my tinnitus is aggravated and made worse be these sounds and they don’t have to be loud nor do I have to be wearing my hearing aids.. I have done considerable research on the matter but have yet to come upon anyone having described a similar experience or even an article that speaks of this problem. I would like to know if anyone does have this problem or if my tinnitus may be of a different nature. I would greatly appreciate any information. .

    • Tomasz

      I think it’s possible your tinnitus gets louder in the presence of everyday sounds because you’re focusing on it. At least that’s what I experienced. I would watch TV and listen for my tinnitus at the same time; sure enough, I could hear it over the TV. I only got better after I started consciously forcing my attention away from the tinnitus.

  • Tom Schultz

    Unfortunately my tinnitus definitely reacts to and become considerable more intense with certain sounds and they seem to be of a high-frequency nature. I was diagnosed as having a severe high-frequency hearing loss so there may or not be a connection. This does make the tinnitus harder to deal with but I’m trying to use some of your suggestions to help overcome the problem. That seems to be the only real option I have as all the other measures I’ve tried have been fruitless.
    I recently stumbled upon what appears to be an explanation for the additional problem I’m having with sounds. It’s a condition called Hyperacusis and it seems that about 40% of tinnitus patients have it. As far as percentages go it looks like I got the bad end of the stick. Never-the-less, I’m trying to stay positive and deal with it the best I can. I had been so lucky, not only with my health but with practically all aspects of my life, that I can it’s time to pay the piper. I’m getting older now but when I was young I loved music and liked it loud. Wish I had it to do over again!

    Thanks for starting this blog! The information has been helpful to me and it’s nice to know you’re not alone in trying to deal with this lilfe-changing ailment. I plan to keep fighting.

    • Rick

      Hi Tom,
      I certainly related to your comments. I too have been moreless a lucky person in life and I spent years listening to loud music, particularly with my mp3 player. Paying the price now as well. One thing I notice that helps is simply time. 6 months ago I never imagined I’d get used to the tinnitus but now I can go hours at a time without noticing the ringing. good days and bad days but I’m still a very healthy person aside from the tinnitus. Blogs like this help a great deal.

  • Tom Schultz

    Thanks Rick,
    Another thing that helps is hearing from people who are dealing with tinnitus yet maintain a positive attitude and offer hope that things will get better. It’s really strange that prior to the on-set of my tinnitus I had never even heard of it and since it commenced I have not found any of my friends/acquaintances who have experienced the problem (to any significant degree) and whom I could relate with. I felt very alone and then started checking on-line and found out I was in no way alone. You’re right, blogs like this may be among the the best forms of therapy we have.

    Thanks again and good luck!


  • Rick

    Good stuff Tom,
    Tinnitus, although a physical condition is also for fellow sufferers a very mental and emotional thing to deal with. Just chilling out is important.
    I’ve had two seperate ENT specialists tell me that my high frequency hearing loss is the direct cause of my tinnitus.
    And my high frequency hearing loss was my own doing.
    My years of enjoying Led Zeppelin, The Stones, etc at high volume with earphones has caused the high frequency hearing loss but now I’m OK with it. The “crickets” in my brain are there now, so be it.
    One other thing, when i’m busy with work or friends, the tinnitus definitely subsides. So keep busy!


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