How to Help a Loved One Struggling with Tinnitus

Glenn Treatment 2 Comments

It’s never easy to watch a loved one suffer from a debilitating illness like tinnitus.

The feeling of powerlessness in the face of so desperately wanting to help…it’s devastating.

At it’s worst, ringing in the ears can feel like torture, raining stress and anxiety on the affected while destroying quality of life.

It’s hard to watch someone you care about go through something like that. It’s hard to even comprehend.

“Those you love will go through hard times. Don’t give up on them. Patience+Caring+Empathy=Love.” – Unknown

Of course, you’ll ask, “How can I help?” and “What can I do?”

But the answers aren’t obvious and our loved ones may not know themselves.

It also doesn’t help that tinnitus is an invisible illness. It’s hard to understand what we can’t see, or in this case, what we can’t hear.

But there’s a good chance that someone you care about is struggling with this, right now, as tinnitus affects 10-15% of the population by most estimates.

If someone you love is suffering from tinnitus, you can be the one who understands.

You can be the one who makes a difference.

Compassion and Empathy:

When there’s nothing physically wrong with you, everyone just assumes you’re healthy.

But under the surface, tinnitus is a devastating condition that can completely destroy a person’s quality of life.

You know that horrible feeling you get when you hear nails on a chalkboard? It’s like that, only worse, because it never ends.

Anxiety and panic become routine as stress rises to unmanageable levels. Sleep becomes difficult and restless. It’s also hard to work, or even focus, with the sounds of tinnitus blaring in your ears.

Unfortunately, doctors don’t always help, either. Many patients are told there’s nothing they can do, that they just have to live with it.

This is simply untrue; treatment is entirely possible, but most people won’t think to question their doctors.

It’s a difficult problem to say the least, and if someone you care about is suffering from tinnitus, this is their daily reality.

“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even if they don’t want it. What appears bad manners, an ill temper or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” – Miller Williams

But you have more power to help them than you might realize.

For starters, you can be the one who believes their pain is real. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this can make. In a world of people who don’t understand, you can be the one person who does.

You can help in more direct ways, too, but not before you take this step.

Learn as much as you can about tinnitus, then take the time to listen, really listen, and validate their pain.

Stress Relief/Relaxation:

Stress and anxiety are a part of life for tinnitus sufferers, and unfortunately, they’re also triggers.

It’s a vicious cycle, and a hard one to break.

But when someone you care about is struggling with a sudden tinnitus spike, and they feel like they’re going crazy, you can make an impact by helping them to relax. It’s a powerful way to fight back, and you can help them find relief in the moment.

So what do I mean by relaxation? Well, it’s important to approach this from as many angles as possible, both mental and physical.

Mental relaxation can be achieved through relaxing hobbies, physical exercise, breathing techniques, aromatherapy, meditation, gratitude practice, sex, music, brainwave entrainment, or any other activity that your loved one enjoys.

But physical relaxation is just as important. We tend to store stress in our physical bodies as muscle tension, aches, and pains. Luckily, we can reduce our stress levels by taking steps to relax the body. Massage, trigger point release (self massage with a lacrosse ball and foam roller), saunas, hot tubs, and hot baths/showers are all excellent tools here.

The more relaxation techniques your loved one can put into practice, the better they’ll be able to cope.

Distraction:

Luckily, humans are fully capable of tuning out annoying background noise from our conscious awareness with a mental process called habituation. It’s how we’re able to carry on conversations in loud restaurants.

But there’s a problem when it comes to tinnitus: it’s impossible to tune out a sound that the brain interprets as threatening or dangerous.

We’re evolutionarily hardwired to react to noises that imply danger in a very specific way. We have a stress response, but with tinnitus, it never ends, because the sounds don’t just disappear.

Most tinnitus sufferers are able to ignore their tinnitus at least some of the time, typically when they are fully engaged with an activity they enjoy. It’s a small taste of what it’s like to habituate.

If someone you care about is struggling, you can help them cope by distracting them from the sound.

If you’ve taken the time to understand your loved one’s situation, you may already have a sense of when they are best able to cope.

Encourage them to participate fully in any activity that helps them ignore it. In other words, do what you can to effectively distract them from the noise.

Often times, this can be enough to get them through a moment of crisis.

Background Noise:

Sound masking is one of the most common coping strategies for tinnitus patients.

The practice is simple: if someone is bothered by the sound of their tinnitus, they can find relief by blocking it out with background noise.

However, there are several caveats to this approach. If the person’s tinnitus is audible even over the background noise, it won’t be very helpful. This is especially true for people with hearing loss – if they can’t hear the background noise, it won’t help at all.

Sound masking also won’t help to address the underlying problems preventing a person from habituating in the first place, at least not it’s own.

But as a coping tool, it’s very effective.

If someone you care about is struggling, encourage them to use background noise to block out the sound of their tinnitus.

As obvious as this may seem, I’ve found that many people don’t think to do this automatically when their tinnitus is bothering them. But you can remind them, or even better, listen with them. Music, white noise, and nature sounds all work well.

PRO TIP: For additional impact, brainwave entrainment audio can induce a state of relaxation automatically while simultaneously masking the sounds of tinnitus. It’s a powerful tool. Click here to learn more.

Final Thoughts:

I know that it can be hard to empathize with someone suffering from an invisible condition like tinnitus.

After all, most people have experienced ringing in their ears for a few hours after a loud concert or party, and it’s rarely ever a problem.

But tinnitus is a much bigger deal than most people realize. There isn’t a cure and it affects hundreds of millions of people around the world. It can drive you completely crazy.

But there’s also hope, because habituation is possible.

Your loved one can get to a place where it’s stops bothering them, dramatically improving their quality of life.

It’s not an easy journey, but with the right approach, you can ease their burden, and help them along the way.

Comments 2

  1. Laudable. Not practical, though. I have tinnitus. I also have other degenerative conditions that restrict my mobility & cause constant, chronic pain. Distraction isn’t always possible. I used to be a crafter; made jewellery, knitted, created greeting cards. I’ve now developed acute osteoarthritis in my right thumb. Puts paid to my crafting. Tinnitus……Was given an NHS hearing aid – which is useless. Basically, that’s IT! I have to deal with my deafness & never-ending noise. It’s horrible, but I have no further recourse.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Margaret, this post wasn’t meant to be a treatment protocol for tinnitus sufferers, but rather a guide for empowering our loved ones to better help us cope. I have an entirely different approach to tinnitus habituation than the techniques you see here, which again, are meant for our family and friends. I encourage you to watch this video – it’s a presentation I recently gave on behalf of the Hearing Loss Association of America and it presents a strategy to finding relief from tinnitus that you probably haven’t encountered before: http://www.rewiringtinnitus.com/tinnitus-hlaa-webinar-replay/

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