The perceived intensity of tinnitus can fluctuate depending on many factors — including the patient’s overall well-being. There are simple things patients can do that may alleviate some of the burden.
Patients can engage in lifestyle and wellness activities to improve the perceived intensity of their tinnitus. General wellness does not have a direct impact on the causes or biology of tinnitus, but it can provide strong peripheral benefits that make living with tinnitus feel much easier.
Below is a list of general wellness activities for tinnitus patients to consider.
There is scant evidence directly connecting specific foods (or the exclusion of specific foods) to improved tinnitus symptoms. However, it is beyond question that a healthy diet has myriad beneficial effects on the body, which may lessen the impact of tinnitus. A health-conscious diet can reduce hypertension and weight, increase blood flow, heighten energy levels and improve emotional well-being — all of which can benefit your tinnitus.
Patients with tinnitus and Ménière’s Disease may want to explore a low-salt diet, as there is a very strong correlation between salt consumption and Ménière’s symptoms.
One diet-related tinnitus issue that receives a lot of discussion is the consumption of caffeine. There is very little scientific evidence that shows caffeine exacerbates tinnitus symptoms. That being said, tinnitus patients should track their own experience with caffeine and adjust accordingly. If caffeine seems to significantly amp-up your tinnitus, then consider reducing your consumption; if caffeine has no impact and/or is an enjoyable part of your daily routine, then you may want to continue consumption as normal. (This general rule is true for most other dietary considerations, including alcohol.)
Exercise isn’t only good for your physical body — it’s also good for your emotional well-being and can help minimize the burden of tinnitus. Exercise reduces stress, a known exacerbant for tinnitus.
Many tinnitus patients report feelings of social isolation, due to difficulties with interpersonal communication, sound sensitivity, and/or irritability. Unfortunately, removing yourself from social situations creates a cycle of negative reinforcements that may make tinnitus an even larger problem. (Isolation causes patients to focus more on their tinnitus, which then makes it less likely that they’ll socialize, which further focuses attention on tinnitus, and so on.)
Social experiences with friends, family, and peers can positively distract patients from their tinnitus symptoms. They can also improve emotional wellness, general feelings of contentment and optimism. Moreover, sharing your experience of tinnitus with others can help you develop a peer support network that may help you through your next tough patch.
Recreational Activities and Hobbies
Some patients believe that having tinnitus means they must give up activities that they enjoy. That is absolutely not the case. Patients can and should continue activities that make them happy and which provide positive diversions from a focus on tinnitus.
Some activities may even provide the benefit of directly masking the sound of tinnitus. Many bicyclists report that the sound of wind passing by their ears while riding covers their tinnitus perception. (Of course, each patient is different and a sound that is masking for one person may be an annoyance for another.)
Tinnitus patients may need to make some minor adjustments or take certain precautions prior to engaging in specific recreational activities — particularly activities that involve loud noise. Patients should consult their hearing health professional on the appropriate hearing protection for these activities.
Several of the options listed above have the benefit of reducing stress. In general, any activity that lowers stress may also lessen the intensity of tinnitus symptoms. In addition to diet, exercise, and socialization, patients can explore other avenues to relaxation, including meditation.
Biofeedback is relaxation technique that teaches patients to control certain autonomic body functions, such as pulse, muscle tension, and skin temperature. The goal of biofeedback is to help people manage stress and anxiety by changing the body’s reaction to these negative influences. Biofeedback is used for a variety of different chronic conditions and many tinnitus patients notice a reduction in symptoms when they are able to control stress.
Hypnotherapy has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. It may also alter neural connections between areas of the brain. As such, it is often positioned as a good wellness option for patients with tinnitus.
Many patients, particularly those with extreme sound sensitivity, may find some relief through the use of personal hearing protection. Ear muffs, ear plugs, canal caps, and other sound mufflers can protect from painful sounds and future damage to the auditory system.
While the use of proper hearing protection is encouraged, it should be noted that protective equipment does not reverse the symptoms of tinnitus. Additionally, because these products block external, ambient noise, some patients may perceive that their tinnitus gets louder when wearing hearing protection.