Most people when they don’t feel well turn to their doctor for advice, treatment and cures. But for people suffering from chronic conditions, it’s rarely that simple. Because no cure-all exists, sufferers often turn to other sources including family, friends and the internet to seek out advice, tips and tricks for finding relief.
Unfortunately, friends, family and the internet are not always the most reliable sources, and patients often stumble across long-disproven myths about their conditions. This is particularly true for tinnitus sufferers. Because scientists are only now starting to really understand the effects of tinnitus, patients and families have often been left to fill in the knowledge gaps with faulty best guesses. Fortunately, medical professionals are learning more about tinnitus every day and dispelling common myths as they go. Here are five tinnitus myths you can leave behind.
MYTH #1: Hearing Aids Cannot Help Tinnitus
TRUTH: hearing aids are one of the most effective tinnitus treatment options for patients.
Hearing loss that’s brought on by age, noise exposure or trauma can often have tinnitus as a co-occurring symptom. And patients experiencing both hearing loss and tinnitus can find relief from hearing aids. Using a microphone, amplifier and speaker, hearing aids boost the volume of outside noise and increase the amount of sound received and processed by your brain. This is helpful for several reasons:
- Masking: hearing aids can raise the volume of external sound to the point that it covers or masks, the noise of tinnitus. This makes it more difficult to hear the tinnitus and helps your brain focus on the noises around you. Also, today’s digital hearing aids don’t just amplify sound, they can also produce it. That means they can create white noise or other artificial sounds that mask the sound of tinnitus.
- Auditory stimulation: when patients experience hearing loss, fewer sound signals reach the brain. Researchers believe that sometimes this can cause the brain to overcorrect, producing sounds signals that aren’t really there or tinnitus. Increasing the volume of sounds around you also increases the amount of sound signals reaching the brain. This could possibly help to counteract the overcorrecting that causes hearing loss-induced tinnitus.
- Improved communication: loud tinnitus can make it impossible for patients to do everyday activities they once enjoyed, such as follow a conversation, talk on the phone, watch television, listen to the radio. This leads to frustration, isolation and depression. Because hearing aids boost the volume of these activities above the sounds of tinnitus, patients may regain their confidence and their desire to be social and participate in life.
MYTH #2: Pills Will Cure Tinnitus
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people looking to make a buck off of other people suffering from tinnitus. There is currently no medication on the market that is a cure for tinnitus. And while some patients have seen their symptoms improve with herbal supplements including ginkgo biloba, garlic, ginseng and turmeric, it’s important to take a “buyer beware” attitude to anything not prescribed or approved by your doctor. Be especially wary of pills claiming to be a tinnitus miracle. Dietary supplements are not monitored or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there are no guarantees that the pills contain effective, safe ingredients or even the ingredients promoted on the packaging.
MYTH #3: Tinnitus Cannot be Treated
TRUTH: there are many options for managing and treating your tinnitus.
While it’s true that there is no one cure-all for tinnitus, patients who actively work to manage their tinnitus and seek out strategies that work for them may feel more in control of their condition. They will even see their symptoms improve or disappear altogether. Here are some tinnitus management ways to manage your condition:
- See your doctor. if you develop tinnitus, it’s important to tell your doctor so they can check you for any underlying causes that may point to effective treatment options.
- Take care of yourself. your overall health can affect your tinnitus, so now is the time to take steps to improve your diet, physical activity, sleep and stress levels.
- Don’t forget your mental health. tinnitus can be hugely stressful for you and your loved ones, and stress can exacerbate your condition. Watch closely for the signs of depression, anxiety and insomnia, incorporate meditation into your daily routine, and ask your doctor to refer you to a talk therapist that specializes in treating patients with chronic health conditions.
- Avoid silence, and try masking. tinnitus is often most noticeable and aggravating when you are in very quiet places. Try sound therapy or creating distracting noise by playing music, having a radio, fan, or white-noise machine on in the background. You can also use a hearing aid that produces soothing sounds and tones to counteract your tinnitus.
- Other therapies. some patients find relief with less conventional techniques, including:
- Tinnitus retraining therapy, a technique that attempts to normalize the tinnitus signals in the brain, making them less noticeable
- rTMS, a procedure that uses a magnetic field to stimulate the brain
MYTH #4: Only Loud Music Leads to Tinnitus
TRUTH: tinnitus has many causes.
While damage to the structure of the ear from long-term over-exposure to loud noise is certainly the leading cause of tinnitus, many other factors can bring on the condition. These include:
- Wax buildup: earwax can build up in the ear canal, making it hard for you to hear. This can send your ears and brain into overdrive, creating stimulation in the form of noises that aren’t actually there.
- Stress: physical or emotional stress has been shown to kick-start tinnitus. In some cases, it can even make existing tinnitus worse.
- Certain disorders: some medical conditions can cause tinnitus. These include hyper- and hypothyroidism, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Reactions to medications: some medications are known to cause or worsen tinnitus, especially at high doses, and the effects may be temporary or permanent depending on the patient. These medications may include aspirin, ibuprofen, certain antibiotics, tricyclic antidepressants and others.
MYTH #5: Tinnitus Does not Exist
TRUTH: tinnitus does exist.
Because tinnitus is an invisible illness with no outward physical signs, patients sometimes get accused of faking their symptoms by unsupportive family members, friends and co-workers. But rest assured that your suffering is very real. If your inner circle is not giving what you need, you have several options for emotional support, including online support groups, in-person support groups, social media communities, and a talk therapist who specializes in helping people with tinnitus cope.