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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 Cool Edit Pro.

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 has an easily identifiable cause, such as earwax buildup, certain drugs, hypertension, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, or acoustic neuroma. (The Tinnitus FAQ has a catalogue of possible causes.)

Most cases of tinnitus, however, are “unexplained”. That is, they result from changes in the brain that are still poorly understood. Dr James Kaltenbach has written a good scientific introduction (PDF) to the current theories on the causes of tinnitus.

One thing that is known about this type of tinnitus is that it 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).

When will my tinnitus go away?

If your tinnitus is of the unexplained kind, the question is difficult to answer. 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. 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 “unexplained” tinnitus disappear completely and permanently. There are therapies that can lessen tinnitus or even make it disappear (Xanax, 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 describes this beautifully in his introduction to Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT):

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 “become 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 SimplyNoise.com. 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. (Here’s another, more recent study of the same phenomenon.)

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. 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’s medication like Xanax that is 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. In general, anything that causes (safe) pain is good because once the pain is gone, you experience the opposite feeling: bliss, warmth, energy.

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

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 (Firefox only) 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.

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433 Comments so far

  • Saorbhreathach

    I have been hearing this for most of my life (as a child I suffered from multiple ear infections, many of which went untreated, some even including as a baby and toddler) and I am turning 18 this may. I’ve learned to ignore it, and it never bothers me anymore. It is around 12 000 Hz, and I have very poor hearing, which ends at around 16 000 to 16 500. Also on a side note, really loud noises make me hear screeching noise like it’s tearing my eardrums or something, so that’s always fun.

  • Sandy~

    Hi, so, the first time I found this blog was four years ago. I’ve just re-read comments I’ve made.
    It’s kind of insane to think that tinnitus triggered depression and anxiety and around seven months of therapy. But I am now completely fine and I owe a lot to this blog and the people who have commented too. Sharing stories and experiences, I’ve found, had helped me so much.
    I just want to say that, to anyone who wants to look after their hearing, wear musician earplugs for concerts/loud weddings/nights out. It’s so, so, sooo reassuring and helpful. Not having the immediate loud buzz afterwards is satisfying. It doesn’t affect the quality of music, just lowers volume. So they’re not like normal earplugs at all.
    Anyway, thank you so much for this blog. I’m eternally thankful for the time and research put into this. I know that nothing helped with coping with tinnitus better than this blogpost. Seriously, thank you.

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Sandy,
      Thank you for checking in — it means a lot to me to hear that my post helped you. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

      The lesson for anyone who recently came down with tinnitus and is suffering mentally is this: It will get better! In a year or two, you will find it incomprehensible that you used to be bothered by this thing.

      And I absolutely agree with your advice about earplugs.

  • Peter

    As humans have been on the planet for a million or more years our hearing system is designed and evolved to take in the sounds of the natural environment only ie wind, speech, animals, birds. In nature there are no hard surface impact noises, and no engine, machine, appliance or gear noises. And no amplified sound.

    Probably it is only when man started to pound rocks to make tools and weapons did noise related hearing conditions first arise. Some centuries ago I imagine that Blacksmith’s probably suffered tinnitus commonly. Our hearing systems are not designed or intended to cope with such insults at all. Even the noise of an overhead cupboard door slamming shut would be totally alien and way off the scale compared to the very mild sounds in nature that our highly sensitive hearing system is intended for. The hearing system is very sensitive as acute hearing was advantageous for survival.

    Most of the noise we are exposed to is now man made and with volume levels much higher than the natural environment. Probably most people have some damage to the delicate and sensitive hearing system, though many without symptoms.

    In addition to the techniques mentioned above I think those suffering ringing ears should try to give the body half a chance to heal the damage over a year or two by trying to stay healthy in general and religiously avoiding any high noise situations. Just one exposure to impact noise or machine noise eg vacuum cleaner (without hearing protection) might undo any healing of the damaged delicate & sensitive structures and nerves that enable us to hear and interpret sounds.

    Some parts of the body are very slow to heal (if at all) and the hearing system would be one of them no doubt.

  • Elizabeth

    Thank you for your blog. I have had damaged hearing since childhood from ear infections (allergies) so I have always religiously worn ear plugs for every loud music event. I carry ear plugs with me everywhere. However, my now 11 year old turned the knob on the stereo when he was three and I ran in with my hands full to turn it down. Now my right ear rings constantly.

    For two years this had a major negative effect on me. I even had to take sleeping pills. However, just like you said, I almost never even think about this now.

    Mine flairs up the worst with pressure changes (airplanes, scuba) but it always goes back to “normal.”

    I hope what I wrote helps someone else.

  • Elizabeth

    I forgot to add the hint that you shouldn’t go to the movies without ear plugs if you have this condition. They are usually too loud and can make it worse.

  • Emma

    I have not read all the comments here, but I got tinnitus about 3/4 years ago. Turns out I have also lost 80% of the hearing in my left ear, a fact that I had missed until I went to the doc to complain about the ringing in my ears. It is loud, really, really loud (louder than movies in the cinema or the engines when flying in a plane) but for some reason I have an affection for it. I chose to think that it was my brain singing to me, albeit in the manner of Vietnamese water music (shared a house with a guy that played it a lot, he was a challenge) but it is just for me, all mine, and I like that. I have the odd moment of panic, especially when it starts in my right ear, but the vast majority of the time it is just who I am now. And that is ok. The doc said that if this was the worst thing to happen to me in my forties then I was doing ok, and I will take that….so don’t let it afflict you, it may not go away, so welcome it as a companion and see what happens.

  • zakius

    >You are probably surrounded by many sounds that are objectively louder than your tinnitus
    yes, unfortunately
    >yet you don’t give them a second thought.
    I do, but if they are not overly repetitive they are much less annoying

    >Every day, you sit in front of a computer that has noisy fans and hard drives
    nope, got rid of them
    >but you don’t obsess over it.
    yes, I do whenever I have to work with a noisy PC

    >To the right of my screen, there is a network router with bright LEDs blinking at irregular intervals
    if I couldn’t hide it properly I’d take out black insulation tape

    to sum up: I can’t handle schematic stimuli, buzzing power supply, whining phone charger, ticking clock and blinking or even glowing constantly status lights are my worst enemies

    yet I can live perfectly fine with my tinnitus, probably because I’ve had it so long I’ve never realized it wasn’t supposed to be there (I suspect I got it when I was about 5, got hit by a bike and had concussion)
    there are times when it bothers me or feels so noisy I have problems handling it, but when that happens I can just reset myself by listening to some music and it becomes better
    Still I’m VERY sensitive to high tones, wearing off car breaks etc. sometimes make me even hiss with pain

    I can’t sleep at night without background noise (but not usual noise, it has to be TV or radio like stuff, not the dreaded repetitive things), but that’s rather by my inability to stop thinking about unnecessary stuff

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Interesting. Are you similarly bothered by street noise?

      • zakius

        street noise, birds chirping etc. bother me in a way, by being too noisy, forcing me to turn up my music (sometimes to the point of it becoming painful), forcing me to “shout” my thoughts in my head to focus on them properly, but are far from being unbearable if the volume is reasonable while repetitive sounds, predictable ones begin to resonate in my mind after a while

        besides that if someone talks on the phone next to me for a longer period my thoughts literally disappear, my whole existence becomes that voice, these words, at some point it makes me want to run away, I’m restless, stressed and physically tired

        • Tomasz P. Szynalski

          That’s unusual. Repetitive sounds should be easy to tune out — it’s random sounds that should be more problematic. In any case, I’m not sure what your point is. My advice is for people who are bothered by tinnitus — it is a fact that all of them are regularly exposed to sounds that are louder (if you don’t accept my computer fans example, try a car engine), yet they don’t bother them like tinnitus does. That realization alone can help people because it strips tinnitus of its “objectivity”.

  • David

    Thank you for helping so many of us who are suffering in “no-so-near silence”. I tried your program for the first time and scored 1,977,250 Level 11 (Normal). Also, thanks for not making promises for a quick cure. For those of us who are 10+ years in, it’s good to know that other people care enough to share how they cope. Mine is about 20% louder in the left ear. My perception shows the tones being equal in frequencies. Definitely multiple frequencies. What’s odd is there is no “spatial” quality. Meaning, if you listen to recording and the sound engineer “pans” the lead singer’s voice to the left or right , most people can interpret this as the face of a clock. With tinnitus, there appears to be nothing spatial. Even though the sounds have the same frequency, my perception is they are truly mutually exclusive. Make sense???

  • Souh

    Great article! Would be nice to update your article with possible treatments comming on in the near future. Such as drugs (clinical trials), surgery, neurostimulation, etc…

  • Jaime

    I am only on Day 10 and I can’t imagine having to live with this forever. To someone who hasn’t experienced the annoyance of it, it’s almost impossible to explain. I know I need to change how I think about it or it will drive me to do something extreme 🙁

    • Velders Annika Sarah

      Me too 🙁

      • Chris

        Hey Jaime and Velders,

        I saw your comment about doing something “extreme” and thought I’d respond. I’ve been living with T for about 20 years, and it’s not worth doing anything extreme over.

        I’ve gone through depression as a result of it. I’ve been super anxious about it at times. I have gone through phases of insomnia and have even been afraid of going outside for all the noise out there. I even quit my band of 15 years.

        But the key is this: Those were all phases. As bad as it gets, it doesn’t last. Some people seem to hit their lowest point before desperation drives them out of it. That was me. What a waste of time! Hopefully you’ll be wise enough to adopt a positive attitude, stay active, follow the suggestions on this site, and avoid depression/anxiety/fear.

        And even when depression/anxiety/fear show up, please remember that they are only temporary emotional states.

        Do what you can to take care of yourself.

        PS: If you really want to show people what T is like, find your frequency here ( http://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/ ) and play it for your friends! They’ll freak out, and probably express sincere empathy.

    • erika

      Hi,
      how are you managing your living with tinnitus now?

  • Pedro

    Hi Tomasz,
    Thanks for all the information you have gathered here. It is really helpful almost immediately. I have for half a year now this phantom noise with me. Left ear around 7000hz
    is the most similiar sound I have found for masking that helps. I have experienced the loop you mention in the text, both sides of it. I understand that this is the way as a few years ago I had issues with eye floaters. To me that was difficult but overcomed it(with very similiar methods described here) to the point that I am rarely bothered anymore. I hope this will be the case with tinitus as well. Getting sleep is difficult though as insomnia kind of kicks in when the sound is most intense at night before sleep and when I wake up too (really strange) like instantly upon awakening is loudest.
    I know a few people with similiar problems and only after it started bothering me did I really research the scale of it and how common. (Of course with degrees varying intensity)
    Plasticity is great. Gracias for the effort.
    Peace and love everyone. Keep hope.

  • Tim

    Thanks for this article and the updates!

  • Nancy

    Thanks for your well written and helpful advice. I will try to retrain my brain. Perhaps try your plasticity link.

  • Virgo

    Thank you for the advice..I think I got (T) from last year coz I always using earphone..

  • TonyC

    For what it’s worth, here is my tinnitus story:

    I have had very low level tinnitus most of my adult life. Other than having to sleep with a fan on year-round, I was rarely bothered by my T symptoms. Four months ago my T changed to a very loud, very high frequency tone that I could hear in both ears and after about a week became unbearable. I also have had problems with anxiety most of my adult life however over the past 20 years even terrible anxiety attacks never seemed to make my T worse. Eighteen months ago I filed for divorce and about 8 months ago the divorce was final. Those months were very stressful but even this terrible period did not seem to make my T worse. Four months ago my T got worse over a single night for no apparent reason. I was not sick or stressed out. I was not exposed to any unusually loud noises. I was not on any medication that might cause or exacerbate T. I have since gone to an ENT who said my hearing is normal for my age and that I show no sign of any ear infection. I exercise nearly every day and I continue to exercise despite the T symptoms. When these symptoms are bad I usually also have hyperacusis symptoms along with dizziness and headaches. Since I am already an anxious person I also experience increased anxiety with all the symptoms that anxiety brings. I have had some days where the T symptoms are much less intense but these quieter periods never last more than a few days before the T becomes much louder with no apparent trigger.
    I have noticed that my T symptoms are almost always worse at night probably due to my fear that it will affect my sleep. If I focus on T when I am in bed then I usually have to get out of bed and do something distracting for about 30 minutes and then try again to get to sleep. Right now I consider getting 4 hours of sleep in a night pretty good considering the effort required for me to fall to sleep. When T is particularly bad I usually play nature sounds or leave the TV on to help me sleep.
    I have also noticed that tightening my jaw muscles makes the T louder in both ears. Turning my head to the left or right makes T louder in the opposite ear. Pressing down on the top of my head makes T louder in both ears. I have tried to find any physical position or pressure point which makes T get quieter, even for a moment, but I have not found anything. When my bad T symptoms started it was a single very high frequency tone (>8KHz) but lately it has been a mixture of tones and chirps sometimes sounding like thousands of crickets in my head.
    The past 4 months have been very difficult for me. I’ve read a lot about T and I have learned that there are no effective treatments for T. My cousin went through a similar problem with T and in his case the worst symptoms ended in about a year. All it seems I can do now is suffer in silence and hope I am one of the lucky ones for whom the T symptoms go away on its own.

    • Robin

      Hi Tony,

      It looks like that i have similar problems like you. (same with jaw muscles and so on) did you found anything yet?

      Greetings,
      Robin

  • Eartech Sweden

    Great article and some really good advice. In Sweden there has, during the last years, been interesting university research in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Tinnitus. Researchers used to conducts sessions with psychologists and they have been converting their results into online CBT for tinnitus with very good results. Take care and good luck!

  • John

    I’ve had T for at least 15 years, and I’m 48 now. It’s loud enough that I hear it all the time. For example, I’m wearing headphones now that cover my ears, I’m listening to music at a low level, and I can hear T in both ears – though the left one is crazy worse that the right. Sometimes its a fairly steady high frequency, and sometimes it is the same pitch but has interrupts like morse code. I’m going to try Plasticity, but I know I’ll probably never get over my T.

  • Kim

    Thank you for the advice and comments on this blog. I have had mild tinnitus since 2012 – I had a mild ear infection and was suffering from stress. At first the sound drove me a bit crazy and I couldn’t sleep. Anyway, it has remained low level noise for the last 5 years. I am now 49 years old. It is 24/7 noise with a very occasional sudden, random, stop with a blissful 10 minutes of silence. The doctor gave me a basic hearing test, in 2012, and said there’s nothing wrong – so no help there! As a result of the tinnitus I have avoided travelling by aeroplane as I think it might worsen the noise in my ears. I also avoid any loud music/concerts and I take ear plugs to the cinema.
    I try to ignore the tinnitus in general but I will try the plasticity suggestion. My tinnitus bothers me at night and is worse when I’m tired or stressed. At the moment I am on holiday, lying in bed listening to the ‘white noise’ buzzing away. I will try and distract myself from it with a trip round the apartment and a cup of hot water! It feels lonely as nobody can know what you are experiencing- but reading this blog is helpful and gives some good tips and positive insights. Thank you.

  • Jay, India

    Hello everyone,

    January 25, 2018, I came form Nepal. I reached at home by late night. I noticed that, there is buzzing sound in my left ear, I thought, the sound due to my air travel (I am frequent traveller, however, this time i felt an unusual air compression in my ear. I wait for two to three days in hope the sound will disappear automatically. I have hypothyroidism since last 8 months and on medication.

    Meanwhile, I searched on web about the problem and know about the T. It is more anxious by reading all negative remarks over the web (Except this site)

    I immediately went to ENT, ENT checked me and gave treatment for Cold/flu, he told me that my ear tube is blocked due to mucus. I took 7 day treatment and observed that there is no any progress. I visited the doctor, he changed the treatment and start DEFCORT, a steroid, along with B-12 and Gingko Biloba for seven days and asked me to go for AUDIOMETRY. My audiometry results are okay except at 8kHz. The doctor told that, the report is normal but you have T. Still treatment is going on.

    I visited, Ayurvedic doctor, the doctor checked me and told that, the T is due to Thyroidism and asked to check TSH (Even on medication TSH found high). The doctor explained that, as i am much anxious /nervous towards the T, it results in increase of TSH level, and advice to remain calm.

    He replied me the T will disappear with Ayurvedic Treatment and by controlling Thyroid.

    Let’s hope , the treatment will work, meanwhile I stop to react emotionally to the T and doing the same what explained by Thomaz. I found it is really helpful especially during night during sleep.

    I was become much more anxious by the information on the web than the T. Thomaz explained all view very beautifully, T itself not a problem but reacting with the T emotionally is the big problem.

    So i urge to the T-colleagues, don’t think any think like ‘Extreme’.

    I will post updates with my Ayurvedic Treatment time to time.

    Regards.

  • Neeraj singh

    I am suffering from a tinnitus from last 1 year.
    My question is anyone there whose tinnitus is naturally cured after few months or years or once the tinnitus came can it never goes from that ear.can tiinitus is permanent or it will healed after some time bcoz on internet there are people’s who saying that once the tinnitus come it never goes it will be with you lifetime.plz answer me

    • Jay, India

      Dear Neeraj,

      Very first don’t get panic.

      I suffered by January 25 th, I searched a lot about the tinnitus, i came to know same as you that it is not curable. I discussed with doctors (ENT MS, Ayurvedic even Homeopathic) all told it will. Almost after one month, i am feeling the problem is almost 90% reduced. I occasionally hear the noise but learnt to not notice it.

      The blogger written well, if you notice the noise, it will get bigger and bigger.

      I tried all the tips what he wrote.

      If there is no problem in auditory system, your tinnitus will cure naturally.

      I suggest, please go to good ayurvedic and Homeopathic doctor to cure it.

  • Pearl

    I’ve had tinnitus for 3 yrs, then suddenly it stopped. Only for 5 days, but what a relief. Oops, next 5 days crickets were back again. This went on from that point. Sometimes only 3 days of silence and 2 days of crickets. I found myself waiting for the next pattern. Thank you for this blog as now I know to just accept each day and try to ignore it. Nice to know I’m not alone. I don’t know how long the periods of silence will continue, but I plan to enjoy them and work on making the rest of it not matter.

  • Crystal

    fyi
    Plasticity made my tinnitus WORSE

  • erika

    Hi,

    do you still have tinnitus? 🙂

  • erika

    How nice to hear that! Because i just developed it, and at this the stage i’m not sure sure how i will be able to live with it. Your answer gives hope 🙂

  • Sophia

    This is the first article I’ve read regarding tinnitus that actually made me feel better, and didn’t scare the living day lights out of me! I’ve had tinnitus since I was 9 years old, and I am 18 now. I have severe hearin loss in my left ear to accompany this. Tinnitus was something I learned to live with very quickly, as mine is apparent 24/7. It has only recently become an issue for me as I begin the next stage of my life: college. Lately I’ve spent a lot of time feeling bad for myself and honestly hating my life because I think “why me?”. I began to fear that I would never be successful in life/ school because of my tinnitus. But reading this article made me realize that I am in complete control of my tinnitus, and I am not alone. I have managed with it fine for 9 years, so what’s 9 more? I’m saving the link to this website to hopefully serve as a calming agent during the times that I freak out. But overall, this thread made me realize that I am definitely not alone. I usually only hear of people having tinnitus for 1-2 weeks and it going away after that. Sometimes I truly believed that I was the only person that had been cursed with permanent tinnitus. But now that I visit this page, I see some people saying they’ve had tinnitus for 15+ years and have been able to manage just fine. Very comforting to read :))) thank you thank you thank you for the advice and the sharing of all your stories.

    • Sophia

      I also have a question for anyone here who suffers from any type of hearing loss along with their tinnitus. I have sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. Near perfect hearing in my right. I have a hearing aid, and honestly didn’t give it that much of a chance because from what I understand, when you have sensorineural hearing loss, increasing volume does not help you hear any better. Yes, the volume of sounds may be louder- but that does not help you to decipher the actual sound. I’ve read that it’s almost similar to hearing “amplified jibberish”. Does anyone have any advice? Do hearing aids work for you? Do hearing aids upset your tinnitus further? Should I give my hearing aids another shot? Let me know!

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sophia. You’re definitely not alone – virtually anyone who’s in any kind of war (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) comes back with tinnitus due to all the explosions. It’s also common among musicians. For what it’s worth, getting it at 9 makes it much easier to adjust than getting it at 30 or 40. Cheers and have a great time in college!

  • vidhya jagannathan

    Hello All,

    Tomasz P. Szynalski , thank you for this positive blog.

    My son who’s 19 developed tinnitus suddenly on July 6. After a visit to our GP and then a visit to the ENT yesterday July 10, a diagnosis of impacted wax in his right year was given. We were assured that removing the wax will make the tinnitus go away. So using a curette and a microscope, the wax was removed and also some microsuction was used for fragments that broke. His hearing tests were normal.

    A day later and no change in T. My son did mention it seemed fainter in the afternoon and then he took the dog for a run and said it’s extremely loud again. Now he says he also hears some thumping noises in his left ear. He had a major meltdown and was very panicked, stressed, and completely freaked out. I am too. I gave him one of my xanax that I sometimes take.

    Should we stay hopeful that this may go away? Or start TRT and the Deep Brain Simulation?

    We live in Atlanta and I have already reached out to Dr. Nagler for a Skype consult. Is he really able to provide good help with TRT and tinnitus in general? Those consults are quite expensive.

    Would appreciate any valuable wordsof wisdom and hope from the wonderful folks in this blog. Many of the other websites I went to was full of doom and gloom and upset me even furthur…

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Hi Vidhya,
      It’s not surprising that an ear blockage might “activate” tinnitus. My hypothesis would be that the tinnitus had already been there, but when normal sounds became faint because of the blockage, the tinnitus became noticeable for the first time. The rest is the result of focusing on it — the more you think about it, the louder it gets. I am a bit concerned about the “thumping” noises. That doesn’t sound like tinnitus. I would perhaps go for a regular ENT visit.

      • vidhya jagannathan

        Thanks for your response Tom. So shouldn’t the clearing of the blockage make the perception of tinnitus less? He’s 19 and unable to focus on his studies or anything else. Met Dr. Nagler who was very caring and compassionate and also said that T does go away for a majority of the people. Going to hang on to that hope and also try to start TRT with Dr. Brenner.
        Meanwhile, any suggestions on how he can focus on studying?
        The past week, all he has been doing is surround hiself with white noise (fans), playing videos on his Ipad (no headphones) and just walking around in a tired state…
        Any suggestions to help focus on studying and to sleep will be deeply appreciated.

        • Tomasz P. Szynalski

          Yes, if your ears are clear, tinnitus is less prominent. Other than the masking techniques I discuss in my post, he could try the “reddit technique” – it’s good for temporary relief.
          Time will also help – I understand you want to help your son very quickly, but you need to give his brain the time to adjust. It will pass.

        • Ann Elliott

          Hi Tom and Vidhya.

          I found this website because I hear tones in my ears daily and wanted to see if I could determine a particular frequency. I’ve always viewed this (as mentioned in these Tips above) like the Universe’s “Dial Tone” or a type of communication from a Source beyond my human understanding. I’ve always welcomed it and it only lasts about 30 seconds at a time, so I don’t consider it Tinnitus.

          Very recently, I started recording my own vocal of the tone as I hear it and then trying to match it up to a frequency number using this Online Tone Generator. While I’ve just started this, it seems the tones are mostly in the 400ish range. (467 today.) I haven’t done it enough to establish a pattern yet but I’m enjoying the process and very curious! I also read somewhere that there are frequencies which are known to be quite healing just from listening briefly.

          I am trained in healing modalities including Cranio-Sacral Therapy (CST) and Somato Emotional Release (SER). I have treated clients who complain of Tinnitus. The “reddit technique” is interesting because it works with pressure on the occiput which is one of the techniques used in CST.

          With clients, we can usually link this to some (nearly) subconscious stressor or fear – sometimes existential and sometimes mundane. I write (nearly) because on some level, they are aware of it and not quite ready to address it. And they are not sure which of their “inner voices” they should trust.

          I think the Plasticity game is cool. I did it quickly without reading anything about it and then forgot to write down my score. I remember that I was scored as “normal” – whatever that means!

          I am in Atlanta as well. If I can help, please post here and I’ll check back periodically.

          Best Wishes,

          Ann

  • Paul

    Hey Tom 🙂

    There’s ringing in my ear now that I read about tinnitus. But, after playing Plasticity (314k is my score at lvl 9. wish it has boss level hahaha), I completely forgot about it!

    I was tinkering with the tone generator and I found out that I can hear the tone at 80Hz all the way up to 10.1KHz (without bleeding my ear out) at a constant volume. Unfortunately, it is only true for my left ear. My right ear can hear up to 9.9KHz.

    I didn’t know about it until today. Thank you for this little great apps, and all about tinnitus. 🙂

    Respectfully,

    Paul (from the Philippines)

  • bluesinthenight

    There are many different reasons that we suffer from tinnitus. I never enjoyed loud music or loud settings. I’m sure mine is directly related to various medications, especially chemotherapy. I use various techniques to cope with tinnitus, as most of us do. Most recently, the manufacturer of one of my generic medications discontinued making it. I’ve been frantically trying to find another generic of the same medication that I can tolerate. In spite of what the FDA would have us believe, all generics of the same medication are NOT the same. All that I’ve tried have had severe side effects. Ironically, the one that seems to work the best, has caused my tinnitus to crank up. I think it may have more of the “active ingredient” than my previous generic, though the dosage is the same. I have had tinnitus for some time, and had adjusted my diet to eliminate many of the obvious offenders (MSG, artificial sweeteners, etc. and I don’t eat processed foods.) I had also found that vinpocetine helped me, though I know that this has not been the case for others. With this recent onslaught, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I couldn’t simply discontinue the medication I was on or abruptly switch to another. I did decide with my physician that I could lower the dose, but I would have to do it gradually. That was frustrating, but I knew he was right. It would take several months for me to lower my dose, and hopefully this would lower the volume in my ears. My husband had suggested when I began the new generic Odyssey, that I keep a diary of my symptoms. I knew that there were days when the ringing had not been bad at all. I discovered that on those days, and the preceding day, I had taken high doses of Liposomal Vitamin C (8,000 mg) in order to fight off a cold. I’m prone to upper respiratory infections and have often been prescribed antibiotics, which I’m sure contributed to my developing tinnitus. I had already decided that higher doses of Vitamin C were less harmful to me than the harm done to my body by antibiotics (not everyone agrees, I know). I’ve had great success in avoiding upper respiratory infections since I began taking larger daily doses of Vitamin C (5,000 mg – 10,000 mg). I went online to see if anyone else had seen a reduction of tinnitus symptoms with high doses of Vitamin C. I found a website for Meniere’s on which a number of people had said that high doses of Vitamin C had helped relieve their symptoms of dizziness, deafness and tinnitus. These were purely anecdotal, as is my experience. I have seen “studies” that showed that Vitamin C and other supplements didn’t help tinnitus, but the doses were very low. I’m just sharing my own experience, in the hope that it may help someone else.

  • indria cheatham

    Hey Tomasz

    Thanks for this blog. I developed tinnitus on Nov 7th. 2018 I was at work and i thought the sound was coming for the computer, then i realized it was my left ear. I went to my computer and googled ringing in my left ear and tinnitus came up. I was so scared because all i read was “don’t go away, suicide, no relationships, and psycological problems. I went into depression and im having anxiety.

    My ear was ringing from 11 am to about 6pm. I was able to lay down and relax and fall asleep qhen it stopped ringing. I woke up around 1 am to use the bathroom and the ringing started again. The ringing stopped after 30 mins. I heard the ringing again two days later for about 30 seconds and 20 seconds again on that friday when i was outside. Since then i have heard no ringing but my ears feel clogged and irritated. Im not eating or sleeping worrying about it coming back. Im praying for my healing and for everyones healing that is suffering from Tinnitus. God Bless and Please dont hesitate to respond. I need help and support.

  • Elaine

    I took an antibiotic called cipro for 5 days, and since had severe nausea and ringing in the ears. I am hoping that being on the medicine for a short time, the tinnitus will subside, it has been over two weeks and it wanes in and ou, loud high pitch, and sometimes my ears hurt a little. Going to see my ENT this week, hopefully will get some answers and relief. I will never take another toxic antibiotic like that again, I hesitated taking it, my UTI culture came back negative, so I took it for no reason except I was experiencing sinus problems from a virus as well. So it is either from virus, allergies or cipro. Hoping to hear that you have heard from other sufferers whose tinnitus subsided after taking this medication. Thank you, Elaine

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