This week is Tinnitus awareness week (4th - 10th February) and after sharing a recent article called 'Barry backs Tinnitus Week 2019' we have teamed up with Barry Blogger Jessica Berg, who suffers with Tinnitus to share her top ten ways to deal with the condition.
As I’m sure you’re aware there is no cure for tinnitus (Booo!). The temptation to pull your own ears off is strong but would more than likely not stop the noise in your head, never mind how much of a mess it would make (plus, what would our sunglasses rest on?).
I have tried different things over the years to reduce the amount of crazy this ringing makes me, and I have come up with the top ten ways to help improve your quality of life whist coping with tinnitus.
Drum roll please…
After a long hard day of work, and for me, using all my energy as I concentrate on listening to what people say, I sometimes need to sit and mindlessly watch some TV or Netflix (those 6 seasons about criminal masterminds aren’t going to solve themselves). However, the ringing would muffle the speech coming out of my TV, regardless of the volume.
After many frustrated evenings not understanding what George Clarke’s interior loving guests were yapping about, I decided to change all my devices to show subtitles (yes, Netflix has this). It doesn’t take long to get used to these, and before you know it, it becomes second nature.
I’ve even noticed that a lot of videos on YouTube and Facebook now automatically do this, which is amazing by my standards!
The added bonus is that you can now also impress people by saying you ‘read’ a lot. - 10 grown up points please Carol!
2. Ear Plugs
Ear plugs are something I WISH I bothered with all those years ago. Those little babies could have possibly prevented me from ever having tinnitus whilst I moshed around rock gigs, shaking my thang directly next to giant speakers.
However, they can still help now. I never want to give up going to watch bands, or clubbing or watching sports events and why should I? After a particularly bad spike after going to a fun but noisy ice-hockey match, I decided to invest in some good quality ear plugs.
I was looking for something that, not only protected my ears, but didn’t block out any quality of sound when I wanted to experience live music. I stumbled across a company called ‘Eggz’ that do just that. The specially adapted ear plugs come in a sleek and stylish metal canister that attaches to your keys, so you never risk forgetting them. If I’m being totally honest, I bought these simply because I thought the keyring was super cool, and that is a priority for me! But after testing them at a gig I knew they had lived up to all my expectations. I had no spike in my tinnitus the following days after the gig, and I heard every note and vocal yo-yo crystal clear.
I recommend these to everyone I meet, regardless of whether they have tinnitus or not, because they can prevent it! They were adapted by a guy that got tinnitus from years of raving at festivals in Ibiza, so he really knows his stuff!
Be part of the cool keyring kids!
3. Quality Headphones
Now that our ears are super sensitive, it important to take care of them in every way we can. I recently wanted to purchase a pair of wireless headphones (thanks for that iphone 7) but I was nervous about whether I should even be wearing the things. All that noise so close to my inner ear… Yikes. Good job 'danger' is my middle name.
So I wanted a good quality pair that would make the sounds come out crisp and clear rather than having to turn up the muffled volume into the red. I find that I now have the volume much lower than I used to, still being able to enjoy my music while I walk around pretending to exercise when I’m really imagining myself in a music video.
As the saying goes, “Quality over Quantity” (Did I just make that up?)
4. Eat well
Woah, woah, woah…. Don’t roll your eyes, I saw that!
Ok, I know that this is the answer to so many health issues, but its not untrue. The reason I say this is because I believe the worst symptom of tinnitus is what it does to your mental health. In my experience, if I’m eating well, I always feel far more energetic and positive. I do not stop eating pizzas and the odd burger (ok lots of burgers), I just make sure I am ALSO getting my vitamins.
You may or may not have heard of the theory that eating a ton of bananas every day can improve your tinnitus (something to do with potassium, I’m guessing)? Don’t ask me how, I’m not a nutritionist, but whatever truth may lie in that theory, there is no way I’m shoving 10 bananas in my pie whole every day (I gag just thinking about it).
So lets just say, eat well, get your vitamins, feel good!
The same goes for exercise. Of course it does. *continued eye roll*
5. Shout at your friends
Go on. Shout at them. I mean this in the nicest way and only a teeny bit aggressively.
Your friends and family love you, they care about you and they want you to be happy. Sure, they may know that you have tinnitus and/or hearing problems, but they will forget, and that is totally fine. Don’t feel like you can’t keep reminding them. To be honest, I talk to my friends and family about it all the time, I actually don’t shut up about it. It’s taken some time, but they have subconsciously started to talk to me in a different way, which is beneficial for all of us.
For example, they look at me when they talk to me. Something so simple that makes all the difference. If anyone tries to talk to me from another room, I just keep shouting “I cant hear you” at the top of my voice, until they give up and enter the same room to speak to me.
Plus, we can all laugh about it. It’s ok to find humour in these things that sometimes hurt us. It’s definitely something that keeps me going some days, and luckily I have funny mates that also care when I need them to.
So, as I said, shout at your friends. Don’t feel embarrassed to have to keep reminding them, it’s easily forgotten when it’s something they can’t see or hear for themselves.
And if you have anyone in your life that makes you feel embarrassed or bad about it, kick them to the curb like poo on your shoe. They don’t deserve you, girlfriend!
6. Hearing aids
Did you ‘ear the news? (sorry, I couldn't help myself) . Hearing aids are cool now! There’s even a hashtag dedicated to that statement on Instagram, so it must be true. I wear hearing aids in both ears and I’m probably the coolest person you’d ever meet so you should definitely check if you can get some too.
Tinnitus and hearing loss tend to come hand in hand. Although it is possible to experience tinnitus without any hearing loss, the majority will be eligible for hearing aids.
Here, in the UK, the NHS offer free hearing aids (unless you lose them, like me, paying around £70 for a replacement), with the flexibility to introduce different programmes to suit you, depending on your surroundings.
Mine include :
· A higher volume
· Cutting out noise behind me and focus on sound in front (great to use in the pub)
· White noise, which helps reduce the volume of my T
I chose which programme I set them to depending on where I am and what I’m doing. These things are probably the most significant addition that improved my tinnitus and changed my life for the better! And as I said, they’re cool now, thanks to me, so get some of those bad boys!
7. Sleeping apps
Do any adults sleep? I’m beginning to think maybe not. But this is NOT a category I would put myself in (being an adult or not sleeping). I sleep. A lot.
I get at LEAST 8 hours a night, and it shows, especially when I get ID’d for a Red Bull at 32 years old (yes that actually happened).
But on a more serious note, sleep depravation can be a difficult thing to deal with, having awful effects, sometimes leading to depression as well as causing tinnitus to get worse as it does with being tired, stressed or hungover. So being able to have a good night sleep most nights makes all the difference to our mental health, which is easier said than done when you have a continuous ringing in your ears.
Take your night time routine seriously, making sure you give yourself time to relax before bed. Something you definitely don’t want to hear is that alcohol, as a habit, is not something that either helps you sleep or improves your mental health. But you already know that.
If I am having a particularly loud day of ringing, I have an app on my phone that plays the sound of rain as well as a ton of other noises to help distract my tinnitus and help me fall asleep. I’ve never met anyone that can relax to hearing a bunch of whales natter to each other, but that’s an option if you are, in fact, that person. There are plenty of apps that do this for free and you can set a timer for as long as you want them to play (an hour is good), before turning off whilst you sleep like a new born baby that’s just had a gallon of milk. That way, you don’t wake up in the morning thinking you’ve fallen asleep in the rainforest.
Talking of apps, here’s another one for your favourite’s list… ‘Headspace’.
This app was recommended to me by a good friend (hi Craig), endless times before I actually downloaded it for myself, and I’ve never looked back.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m being a hippy and weaving you a basket to put wild flowers in whilst walking down the street, barefoot. But this app teaches you how to relax your mind, training it to clear of mess as well as talking you through how to breathe. I know what you’re thinking, “but I already know how to breathe, I’ve been doing it my whole life” – well I’m telling you, you’re doing it wrong!
All jokes aside, the aim of something like this is to improve your mental health, which, as I already mentioned, is one of the major things that takes a hit when dealing with tinnitus. Learning to breathe certain ways forces your body and the tension that lays within it, to relax and be calm. It helps train your brain to control the messy thoughts as well as anxiety.
You can make it a part of your sleep routine I told you about in point numero 7. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, as they say, you might be pleasantly surprised.
*You can use just the free sessions, so you don’t have to invest in the full library unless you really want to.*
9. Do something scary
One of the lessons I’ve learnt in my life so far, is that ‘comfort zones’, as it turn out, are not very comfortable at all. Getting tinnitus put me into a big fat comfort zone of staying home to reduce the anxiety of being in busy places, avoiding my friends in case I struggled to hear them and avoiding decent employment in case it would involve using a telephone.
And I have never been so miserable in all my days!
It wasn’t until I got involved in an adventure that involved driving from Wales to Russia in a Fiat Panda with 3 other friends over 8 weeks as part of the Mongol Rally (which I talk about at least twice a day), that I realised what I had been missing out on. A feeling of challenging myself that lead to nothing but happiness. Even the stuff that turned out less than desirable felt good because it was new and we had given it a good ol’ go.
What I’m trying to say is, do something that scares you. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as driving to Russia, but at least something that might make you feel uncomfortable or nervous and for the greater good. Be a yes person and join in whenever you get the chance, because the feeling you get from doing something scary and achieving it, builds your self-esteem more than anything else on this planet.
Go for it, face your fears, we only have now, and I promise it’s worth it.
*Somebody give this girl a microphone! Hallelujah!*
10. Join in the conversation
It’s always a surprise to me how many people suffer with tinnitus and hearing loss. This isn’t something you will realise either until you start talking about it.
Tinnitus feels very isolating and there is a huge danger of you feeling alone in the battle.
That’s why I say talk about it. There are many support groups you can join for free online, finding one on Facebook is as easy as fishing in a bathtub full of, umm... fish. Through being so open about my tinnitus, I have made friends with other girls like myself, with similar interests and the same worries that I talk to, knowing they understand exactly what I’m going through.
Talking about it also helps raise awareness, pushing funding for research and support as well as informing others, that don’t suffer with the condition, what you’re going through.
Be a part of the conversation, there’s a lot of us in it!
So that’s my personal top ten! There are plenty of other ways people improve their lives with tinnitus, and we’re all individual. My guess is that there will not be one thing, but a combination of things that will suit you. Be patient and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you just must dig your own way out of it.
Written By: Jessica Berg
Nathan is the Operations Director and one half of Vale Breakfast on Bro Radio. You'll hear him reading local news, hosting at local events and presenting our facebook live videos.