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:
- You can stop the noise from bothering you.
- 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 myNoise.net. 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:
- 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”.)
- 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
- myNoise.net – 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:
- Some neurons are firing in my auditory cortex (since I hear the tinnitus).
- The cortex can reorganize in response to training.
- 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.
Dustin Jul 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm
Thank you very much! it helps knowing that there are people going through exactly what i am, and have overcame it. iv had T for around 3 months now and i occasionally have frantic flare ups and dive into anxiety but this helps. my father and aunt both have it to and they say they have had it so long they dont even notice it anymore. it takes time and patience but your brain is amazing and it has the capacity to deal with trauma like Shittius over time haha. hang in there everyone we are not alone, it sucks but we are in this club together.
Sandy~ Jul 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm
I have one main question I really want to ask- will I ever be able to enjoy weddings, festivals, concerts, even watching movies and going theatres… and the such? I now feel so terrified of the idea of going to these things- the idea that I’ll make the ringing so much worse. I don’t want to be the odd one out in my family- I’m already outcasted as it is without this added shit. It’s fudged up my life quite a considerable amount already but I’m still trying my best to overcome it and be myself again. I even feel really scared of going on a bus- with the idea it’ll damage my ears! That sounds stupid but yeah. How about normal headphones on low volume- is that a no now? Tinnitus can go and eat shit. >.<
Greg P. Jul 24, 2013 at 9:16 pm
Hi Sandy, Try to go on and do the things you enjoy. I have been dealing with this beast for several months, and like I have told others on here, try to get it off your mind and go on with your bad self… I play guitar as a hobby, and I plan to continue.. Best of luck! Greg P.
Rick Jul 24, 2013 at 9:28 pm
I agree with Greg. Sandy, your comments remind me of myself a year ago when I first developed tinnitus. I was afraid to go swimming (which I love), wear earphones, listen to live music, etc. It doesn’t help that ENT specialists tell you there’s nothing you can do to help you.
But time does help, your brain adapts and the tinnitus becomes a part of you and, believe it or not, not noticeable much of the time now. Live your life normally, time really will help.
Paras S Borgohain Jul 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm
This is really helpful and comforting. I developed Tinnitus today and I think it may have followed many years of watching movies with loud sound on my home theatre system. The static on simplynoise is helping already, but I also seem to feel a little pain in the ears. Would it be wise to see an ENT specialist?
Marie Jul 26, 2013 at 1:12 am
I so much appreciate all the comments here. I’ve had tinnitus now for about three weeks and I’ve been so discouraged and anxious about the situation. I have a question: Is there anyone else whose tinnitus changes constantly? I will hear it sometimes in one ear and sometimes the other. Tone and pitch and intensity and quality (i.e., buzzing versus a clear tone) all vary throughout the day. I feel like this is quite unusual and means that getting used to it is going to be a challenge. My hearing is normal. Anyone else having a similar case?
Rick Jul 26, 2013 at 1:22 am
I’ve talked to numerous ENT specialists during my 1 year of tinnitus and have learned the primary cause is definitely hearing loss. This is true in my case, high frequency hearing loss caused by many loud concerts and too much time with the earphones turned up loud.
I’m told by the ENTs that the second cause can be a virus. Marie, if you’ve had tinnitus only 3 weeks this may be very good news for you. If your hearing is normal, perhaps a virus is causing your problem. If that’s the case, your tinnitus will go away in time.
Good luck and hang in there.
Sandy~ Aug 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm
Hi Rick, I’ve had my ringing for about 7-8 weeks now and in that time, it has considerably gone down now but now the frequencies are changing a lot. Sometimes it sounds like bells, others just a drone and it’s never constant anymore. Some mornings I wake up without any ringing and then it suddenly appears out of the blue throughout the day- even in silence for when I’m reading- not really caused by anything loud. I know I haven’t had any hearing loss- I took a test and my hearing is far above average so this isn’t an issue. My doctors (I’ve asked two doctors) has assumed it is a virus. If so, how long will it take to actually leave? I’m no longer as affected by it daily although it does bring about anxiety attacks especially when on a road journey or going to a party (which I am now going to get musician earplugs for). Does it vary? Or can it still last longer? Thanks! 🙂
Rick Aug 10, 2013 at 1:25 am
I’m not a doctor, just a fellow tinnitus sufferer. An ENT specialist would be better equipped to answer your questions regarding a possible virus.
I’ve had numerous hearing tests and they all come back with high frequency hearing loss, the major cause of tinnitus.
Second cause is a virus. If you have perfect hearing, this is the most likely culprit. How long the virus lasts I don’t know.
One of the most frustrating things all of us on this blog share is that doctors don’t seem to have any treatment options other than masking or time.
For me, time worked. It’s now 13 months and I’m listening to my “crickets” as I write this. I’m more aware of it because I’m thinking about it right this moment.
But 5 minutes from now when I’m working out at the gym and socializing, I’m not even aware of the tinnitus.
I hope this helps. It’s a mysterious ailment but this blog has helped me a great deal and I hope it helps you.
Take care, peace.
Sali May 30, 2018 at 9:30 am
You’ve just described my situation perfectly. I had a blood test and it even showed a virus. Wish I knew more about when it’s caused by a virus….
Vikas Gupta Oct 3, 2013 at 11:47 am
I am having tinnitus for the last 6 weeks and it fluctutes constantly. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not there. My hearing is normal and the ENT specialist says it is due to stress. Tinnitus is only in right ear. Also had Brain MRI and it is normal. Just wanted to know whether your Tinnitus still persists otr it has went away
Greg Jul 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm
Question…I realize that everyone is different but after one year, do you ever have to mask the sound? Also, when swimming….do you wear ear plugs? After six months, I’m still trying to work through this challenge. Thanks.
Rick Jul 26, 2013 at 11:50 pm
No, I don’t wear ear plugs when swimming. I ran this by my ENT and he said ear plugs would not be a benefit to stopping or improving my tinnitus. Since I do have hearing loss in both ears there isn’t much I can do. I did try masking with audio clips of nature, thunderstorms, etc and it is effective but now after 1 year I’m surprisingly used to the “crickets” in my ears.
Simmons Aug 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm
Thank you very much for writing this. I’ve recently began my tinnitus research and your post is one of the first thing that I’ve read.
I’m glad that I could read about your discoveries as they further reassured me that I’d finally found the real cause of my countless, countless sleepless nights. Everything you write sounds so very familiar that it’s just calming to hear it from somewhere outside of my own head.
My life’s quality have deteriorated enormously for the last couple of years because I cannot fall asleep until I’m totally drained almost every single night, which greatly impacts my day activities. I first thought I can just ignore all this, the noise, the problem, forget about it. Yeah, but subconsciously everything was there, I was still hearing it and it was annoying and I didn’t know why I was annoyed… This contradicts the theory of ignoring the noise but only superficially – the two are different things: not acknowledging the problem and ignoring the sound. Anyway. Before I got my tinnitus the thing I love most in my life was to get somewhere quiet and listen to the silence.
Since this is one of the first stops in my journey I’ll be continuing with some of the links you provided – some of them look very promising.
Thank you very much once again!
michael Sep 14, 2013 at 5:48 am
I do not know whether this will be helpful to anyone, but here is a blogpost on my benign experience of tinnitus which I have had since childhood, for as long as I can remember. http://bit.ly/16rIyZc
Tomasz Sep 14, 2013 at 9:39 am
Thanks! Experiences like yours show that the biggest problem with tinnitus is not the sound itself, but one’s attitude to it. I’ll link your post from the main article.
lynnien Sep 18, 2013 at 7:38 pm
This is the best article I have read on the tinnitus topic thus far. Thank you for posting. About 3 weeks ago, I just noticed my right ear had a slight ringing and thought it might be earwax buildup. I used some debrox and went to bed without giving it another thought. However, the sound got louder and louder and I decided to visit my dr who told me I had a slight ear infection. I was given antibiotics, and though the sound lessened, I noticed my other ear had the same ringing sensation. I went back to my dr who told me I had an infection and to continue the antibiotics. The antibiotics finished 2 days ago but the sound is still there, though considerably lower. It doesnt affect my hearing but it has made me depressed and anxious. I think I am already In the loop and I am trying my best not to think about it or listen to the sound, but its hard. I realized, the more depressed I am, the worse the noise gets so I am trying to stay positive and watch silly videos. I am using white noise to sleep but I dont want to become dependant on white noise just to mask it . I also play music through out the day to mask the noise and get my mood up.This article really gave me a positive outlook and hopefully, I can get improvement soon. Thanks for posting.
Mikko Oct 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm
I like your tone generator. It’s the best I have found online, except for one thing: there is no volume control. Any chance you could add that? (I use digital output on my computer and therefore can’t use my computer to control volume. Adding to that, my external amplifier does not have exact control for volume, so it is way too loud even at its lowest setting.)
Vikas Gupta Oct 5, 2013 at 10:42 am
My symptoms of ear ringing matches your. it’s 6 weeks since i got ear ringing at the middle of the night and it is fluctuating since then. Sometimes it;s there and some of the times it goes away. Doctors say it is infection but even after it got cleared, the ringing still continues. Now they say, that i am stressed up and ask me not to focus upon it.
Can you let us know if yours has gone away. It will give me a great assurance that i am not struck up with it forever
Sandy~ Oct 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm
I’ve had my ringing for almost four months now, and what a ride. I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and depression… and I’m only 17… which is really inconvientient but you know what? I’ve become so accustomed to the ringing now. It still bugs me at times but that’s rare now. My ears get clogged up 10000x quicker since being infected, and even though the virus has gone (I think), it’s still there. It has improved over time. It’s really faint now.
I’m seeing an ENT soon (just to be on the safe side), and I’m also going for therapy for my disorders, and I’m here just to say be strong and keep being strong. Even though I have really bad lows at time for other various reasons, it’s still fine to live with, it’s bareable, and like this blog says, and almost everyone commenting, it gets better. Though I am precautious now- I take earplugs with me to wedding parties and such. But apart from that, nothing has changed ^-^
Ben D. Oct 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Thanks so much for this blog. I developed T less than a week ago and am securely in “the loop”. I feel as if I’m going crazy, but while reading your post and the comments I feel as though the tinnitus has quieted. I hope that this gets better, and that the sound will bother me less. I wonder if steroids would help me, my concert was over three weeks ago.
Sending lots of love to all T sufferers out there. <3
Greg P. Oct 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Ben, being that yours was brought on by a concert, you may be one of the lucky few and your T will go away. I’m however not one of the lucky few, and just live with it, paying as little attention to it as possible.. Best of luck! Greg P.
Ben D. Oct 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm
I’ve had a mild case for years, but only at night. This time it’s getting in the way of my daily life. I sure do hope it goes away, but that possibility seems so far off right now. I need to learn some ways of “blocking it out”.
Tomasz Oct 11, 2013 at 10:24 pm
Thank you very much Tomasz. I have developed T six month ago and found your blog about 3 months ago. Mine is very high at about 15khz but very loud. I was really panicking and going crazy about it. Because I am musician it was a lot harder to me. I keep coming back to what you said about tinnitus and checking if my attitude has change and I can say yes it has changed after all those months. Of course my tinnitus remains the same but its the attitude like you said. So yes leaving with tinnitus is not easy but you CAN adjust and learn to live with it and go back to your old self. Once again thanks for your help!
Rick Oct 18, 2013 at 11:46 pm
I feel the need to send a message out to all new T sufferers, it gets better. I’m going on 2 years now and it just becomes part of your life,
I am 55 years old, pinched nerve in my neck that never goes away plus the tinnitus. But I see my co-workers and friends suffering from much more serious things: cancer especially..
Dealing with Tinnitus is a state of mind, the crickets in my head are part of me now. In fact, the only time I’m aware of them is when I write these entries.
It gets better! You’re not alone!
Greg Oct 21, 2013 at 11:52 pm
Did you cut out caffeinated drinks including coffee? In addition to excercise, did you change your diet and/or supplements that you think was a benefit. Thanks for you input.
Rick Oct 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm
I definitely cut down on my coffee, only 2 cups per day now. I have noticed alcohol makes my tinnitus worse, especially the day after drinking so I’ve cut way back on that also. My diet hasn’t changed much but I generally started eating healthier with less sugar intake.
John Mayston Oct 26, 2013 at 10:37 am
Thank you so much for writing this blog. I have learnt a lot.
I wonder what happens if people start exercising a bit more? Going for a run each day. Might take your mind off the noise. I might try it.
Ross Dec 3, 2013 at 10:35 am
Hi, I am fit and healthy (5’11”, 11 stone) and never did that much regular exercise, then I got stress related TT. I started running every second day and it is a great help. Usually after I run 20 mins I forget about it completely for a few hours, sometimes all day, and its quiet enough that I have to concentrate to see if I can still here it at all. Well worth a try 🙂
Rick Oct 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm
Beware of scams folks!
People that take advantage of us tinnitus sufferers are the scum of the earth. This is a physical condition, it can’t be cured, only controlled. I do believe in karma, evil karma to all those that promise quick results to tinnitus.
I just noticed my tinnitus flared up, well worth it to send this message. Do NOT listen to assholes selling “cures” for tinnitus.
M Nov 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm
PBS’ Newshour did a study, citing current tinnitus research, which reinforces many of the concept on this blog. Interesting reading: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/science/july-dec13/tinnitus_11-06.html
Tomasz Nov 11, 2013 at 10:58 am
Thank you for posting this. The audio demonstration of what tinnitus sounds like was quite realistic. Though I was disappointed that there was no mention of Jastreboff’s TRT. TRT must have helped thousands of people with tinnitus.
Wayne Nov 8, 2013 at 5:53 pm
I find this blog very interesting. I have read over all of the posts and can relate to most of what everyone says. I have had tinnitus for over 12 years now. It started with someone firing off a full clip from a 45 cal handgun not even 3 feet from my left ear. It took a week before I could actually start hearing sounds from that ear again. It felt almost numb with no tingling during that time, but constant ringing. I have had the high pitched ringing ever since. I never went to a doctor about it because I figured my hearing is damaged and from what I read back then, there isn’t anything that can be done about it.
I will say it almost drove me to have panic attacks within the first year because all I could focus on was the high pitched squealing and the thought that it would never go away. You do finally get to a point where you start to ignore it, although there are days it flairs up but then subsides. I have worked in an industrial setting where my hearing was tested yearly and the first test revealed significant hearing loss at high frequencies.
What brought me here was researching hyperacusis. My wife believes she may have it because there are some noises that just drive her insane such as a ceiling fan ticking, water cooler humming and young children screaming while playing, just to name a few. It’s a real problem for her. She gets irritated with me when I tell her to just focus on something else like we learn to do with tinnitus. She looks at me like she wants to stab me in the neck. To make it worse I find some of the sounds soothing so I prefer to have them there! That’s when I found the post by Tome Schultz on 12/27/13. There are a couple of sounds that just set me and my tinnitus off. The main one is a water faucet. I won’t even notice the high pitched ringing until the faucet is turned on and bam! It’s like the tinnitus volume was cranked to full volume. There is very little information on the topic of hyperacusis caused by tinnitus. I’m glad I found this site because it puts a new perspective on what might be a common problem my wife and I share. I think it’s time we both have it checked out by a doctor.
Chuck Nov 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm
I’m in my late 50’s with tinnitus for the past 6 or 7 weeks. Saw ENT and had hearing test – ‘mild’ bilateral high frequency sensorineural hearing loss – ENT thought it was noise-related. Seems to come and go between ears – R then L, both and occasionally neither.
No one on this blog has mentioned notched-music or notched white noise therapy. There seems to be a fair bit of encouraging literature on both (see below). Interested in your thoughts on this.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 January 19; 107(3): 1207–1210
Tomasz Nov 12, 2013 at 10:03 am
Chuck, I used notched noise to mask my tinnitus at night for many months. It helped me fall asleep (as any noise would have); I don’t know if it helped, certainly it didn’t make a dramatic difference.
George Collins Nov 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm
Thank you for writing this, has been reassuring 🙂
Ed Bayas Nov 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm
I have had my T for seven months now. In the beginning it was very scary. For the first three months, I went through a very wild roller coaster ride. But I was very lucky since mine is very light I could hear it only in very quiet places and does not bother me when working. I aslo found this forum very helpful! And it is true; it gets better in time.
Lisa Nov 18, 2013 at 12:50 am
I developed tinnitus 17 days ago. I am a singer and musician, so I am tuned into the buzzing tones all day and night long. It started when I went to an ENT for a blocked Eustachian tube, something I have had before and which passed. He sprayed lidocaine up my nose so he could check the opening with a probe. Hours later my ears started buzzing and haven’t stopped since. Static noise at the same frequency seems to make it louder – showers, fans, generators. So basically wherever I go, I hear it. Looked up lidocaine, and it is ototoxic. Cannot believe that an ENT actually brought this on. I am hoping it will go away. I know I suffer from anxiety anyway, but my auditory perception is everything as a musician. Many of you who posted on this thread have had it only for a few weeks. Has anybody’s gone away? The doctor said it should go in a few weeks if due to one time ototoxcity. But not so sure this ever goes away. I know I cannot live with this long term. I will not make it. You are all so very brave.
Tomasz Nov 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm
Lisa, the reason static noise makes it louder is that you’re focusing on the tinnitus so much, so your brain is trying to amplify the sound that you perceive as threatening. Believe it or not, many people get tinnitus and, when they notice it, never give it a second thought — after all it’s just a little noise, it doesn’t really impair your hearing. The problem with tinnitus is that your neurotic reaction to it is “feeding” it (see my comments about The Loop). The only way out is to stop treating it as a threat.
Sandy~ Nov 19, 2013 at 10:26 pm
I’ve had it for a good 25+ weeks now and honestly, it sometimes goes away (for very brief moments of time; say, a minute) and comes back. Like Tomasz says, it really is because you’re paying attention to it that it sounds loud and… the best way to describe it is that it is f***ing terrifying. I hardly notice it now. I’m also a musician; (pianist & singer), so my perfect pitch matters to me so much (I can hear notes and replicate them perfectly as long as I’m given at most a minute xD). And honestly, no matter how loud the ringing is… I can still hear extremely well. & since it’s due to the ototoxicity you were given, just give it a good three months or less to really clear up. I promise that it gets better. I was sure that my whole life would be ruined; (my anxiety reached an all time high, I was diagnosed with depression, I was terrified to go to loud places in case I became deaf) but… all the worry is literally for nothing but fear. To be honest, I’m seeing an ENT tomorrow so I’ll see what they say. Pretty nerve-wrecking to say the least in case I’m completely wrong and there’s another, deeper underlying problem (catastrophising: this is my depression taking over I do apologise). You’re very brave too~~~ AND do not look too much into tinnitus. It’ll only scare you!! Things published on the internet may not be true, even if they’re on legitimate websites.
Well, good luck anyway~^-^
Ross Nov 18, 2013 at 9:11 pm
Hi, first off thanks for the blog tips, TT is very scary and its lovely to read something positive. I have had mine for three weeks now and altough its still very much there I am surprised how quickly I have started to deal with it. So if you’ve just got TT and are freaked out, dont worrry, it gets better!!
For me it started out of nowhere, no loud noise or physical discomfort, just noticed a loud high pitched ringing in my ears that didnt stop. I went to the ENT and she said everything was perfect and she put it down to stress. My TT was loud, VERY loud, and I was very very frightened for the first week. Having never experienced a panic attack before I had 3 serious panic attacks in a week. I am 32 and I have always been 100% healthy and fit, so i didn’t recognise my own behaviour, I was extremely stressed, almost constantly panicked and very depressed. The doctor put me on Sleeping pills and anxiety pills to calm me down. Sleeping didn’t happen at all without heavy anxiety pills
But then as I got used to it my brain began to adjust, and I got my “thoughts” back, and the last week has been pretty normal. for large parts of the day I dont even notice it, and it gets louder when I get a bit stressed or think about it, which makes me realise that I DO have some leve of control over this.
I still haven’t figured out how to sleep, I have come off the pills but I am only getting 3hrs at a time, with an hour awake, then another 2/3, but I am working on it, I have affectionately called it my new “sleep training project”.
On the good side, my 10 days of literal mental breakdown gave me some extraordinary gifts. I called my dad and we talked about how scared I was, and it opened up a line of communication that we have never had before, he called me every night since its been great for us. Also having had a very happy event free 12 months with my girlfriend, I saw her for the first time in a crises situation and she was amaxzing, and now, in relative sanity, I realise how great she is, and I know how lucky I am to have her. Also I have no got a very motivating reason to start exercising properly as running is really a great stress reliever.
Anyway, I’m not out of the woods and my TT seems very loud still, but I am a million miles ahead of where I was three weeks ago, and at the time I really dodnt think that would ever be possible.
Tomasz Nov 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Thanks for posting — wonderful story. I can see you have the right attitude! Try sleeping with masking noise, it was a life-saver for me.
Lisa Nov 19, 2013 at 2:25 am
Thank you for the comments. And the blog is so wonderful. Especially the ticking clock. The pitches I hear are in a certain range, so I think when I experience static or noise in that frequency, the tinnitus also reacts.
They say that tinnitus can reverse itself if in the first 3 months. I wonder if any new sufferers on here have experienced this? Where it completely goes away.
Chuck Nov 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm
Lisa, have you tried pseudoephedrine ?(Sudafed, contained in many cold remedies). If it’s Eustacian tube relates then that might work.
Tomasz Nov 19, 2013 at 2:13 pm
It can definitely go away, but people don’t usually write about it on message boards when it happens. Just like you only see sick people in hospitals — doesn’t mean that people never get better.
pechanni Dec 7, 2013 at 11:45 am
Hi Tomasz and everyone else!
I’ve had some kind of tinnitus for as long as I can remember. When I was very little and trying to sleep, I’d ask my brother if he also heard something. Someone explained to me that it was natural, just the sound of blood circulation.
But as a teenager and my early twenties (I’m now 25), I suppose I listened too often to music that was too loud on my iPod. The volume of my tinnitus gradually increased. It didn’t go from imperceptible to loud in a day, but the realisation was rather sudden – “my god, it’s actually quite loud”.
I don’t have trouble sleeping with it, and I have also experienced forgetting when I focus on reading or listening to another, irregular sound, for instance. It doesn’t interfere with the things I “need” to do during a day.
What frustrates me about most tinnitus advice is that the general advice is to mask it, to do something that distracts you, or to think of something else. The reason why is that I love to meditate, and I love silence. For both of these, tinnitus is quite an obstacle. Meditation and silence used to be my sanctuary, my escape, my best time alone. Now I’m anxious of meditating and being in silent rooms because I often end up a little more frustrated than when I was before.
I’ve found more sites than yours, Tomasz, who says that T can get better. But I haven’t found much concrete advice on what to do. I will stay away from coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, loud music and try to exercise – but is there something else? Is there any study showing that you can meditate T away, or something along those lines?
Thank you all for sharing your stories and tips!
Tomasz Dec 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm
The way I see it, tinnitus could be helpful in meditation. Instead of focusing on your breath, or a mantra, you can just focus on the sound in your head. But to do that, you’d have to lose the negative reaction to it, and instead grow to accept it. Think of it as the dial tone of the universe 🙂
I’m not sure there is any solid evidence that coffee makes tinnitus worse. In my case, it makes it quieter, as does anything that makes me more alert. My tinnitus has always been worst when I’m tired. For me, exercise actually makes it “objectively” louder, but it reduces anxiety. Not sure about alcohol, I drink sometimes, and haven’t noticed any change. I do agree that loud music (uncomfortably loud) is something you want to avoid, as it can produce tinnitus.
Steve Dec 27, 2013 at 9:28 pm
I went to an ent doctor and told him I had tinnitus. I showed him an xray of my ear & neck and he found that my styloid was 5cm. He told me the avg styloid is 2cm and that could be causing my tinitus. I surgically had it removed. I woke up from surgery and my tinnitus is now worse.
Lisa Dec 28, 2013 at 4:06 am
Hi All, just wanted to write an update. I have now had tinnitus for 8 weeks. Initial onset was from anesthetic. But various treatments have added more tones. This included anti anxiety meds, the pressure changes in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, 2 tapers of prednisone, and most recently an acupuncturist actually added electricity to needles on my head, saying it worked for her stroke patient (which turns out is opposite from tinnitus and our neurons over firing). So what was low buzzing in my left ear, is now around 4 tones, some high and piercing in both ears. I have learned the hard way now just to leave it alone. I worry I was so obsessed in trying to fix it, I have now passed the point of no return. I find things that bother the tinnitus are loud noises, stress, lack of sleep, inflammation, electricity. Things that help are sleep (which I am still not really doing), epsom salts bath (muscle relaxing), deep breathing, meditation. I hear all the time that in most cases, in the first year, the tinnitus can be substantially repressed/diminished. So I am hanging on to that hope right now.
Jim Dec 31, 2013 at 5:39 pm
Hey guys, I also have Tinnitus the last 4 months and I have to say it does get better. Two months ago, I couldn’t imagine it won’t bother me at all in such a short time.
I think the common thing between us all is that we spent too much energy on it, I have talked to people who had it and didn’t even bother going to the doctor. Speaking of which, try to get as many opinions as possible, I found doctors telling me completely different things.
Also, to add to the update of a loud concert making it worse, I also got it from a loud concert, but I have continued going to them; I don’t think it is impossible to enjoy these anymore; just use common sense, wear earplugs, stay away from the speakers and if you feel the noise levels get uncomfortably high leave.
Tomasz Dec 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm
Yes, I think there is definitely a connection between neuroticism and how much you suffer from tinnitus. Some people are just more prone to worrying, obsessive thoughts, anxiety etc. than others. Once they discover a mildly annoying sound in their head, they fixate on it and drive themselves nuts.
A friend recently told me that one night he discovered he had a constant noise in his head. He immediately dismissed it as a minor problem, never occurred to him to go to an ENT, read Web forums, etc. He is the opposite of neurotic — one of the most emotionally stable people I know, the kind of guy who never gets angry, anxious, worried, etc.
I’m a fairly neurotic person myself, but I have learned to recognize some of the bad thoughts and “shoot them down”. Realizing that there is nothing inherently “annoying” about a stimulus, that it’s your thought patterns that make it annoying or neutral or pleasant, has really helped me become a more accepting person with regard to tinnitus and other things that used to bother me. It’s not like you have full control over your feelings, but once you realize that they happen inside of YOU, you can start seriously thinking about what techniques you can use to stop your brain from reacting in a certain way.
Joe Jan 8, 2014 at 2:12 am
Wow this is an amazing article.
Has your tinnitus gotten any better since you wrote the update in September?
Tomasz Jan 8, 2014 at 11:57 pm
Subjectively yes, in the sense that I hardly ever notice it.
Erica Jan 8, 2014 at 7:02 pm
I’ve lived with T for as long as I can remember, and never really worried about it. It was simply part of life…”the pants” I’d been wearing for years….
But abruptly, about a month ago, it got REALLY loud and was suddenly accompanied by a feeling of pressure in my ears, sometimes a pulsating kind of feeling. I don’t notice it much during the day, or maybe I just don’t focus on it or care…however, it now wakes me out of a deep (or light) slumber, and there’s no way to get back to sleep without listening to music.
It’s the new pressure aspect that has me concerned, and the volume of the whistling and ringing.
Turning on the fan seems to work…except that it’s cold now in winter! 🙂
Tomasz Jan 8, 2014 at 11:16 pm
I think you should see an ENT. The pressure sounds like a mechanical problem unrelated to tinnitus. If your ears are blocked because of some fluid buildup, tinnitus will seem louder because the ambient noise will get softer. Sometimes my ears are blocked after swimming and that makes the tinnitus louder.