When I was young, around three, I remember a conversation I had with my grandparents. They were talking about how my grandfather had lost most of his hearing in WW2 and now had a ringing in his ears. I remember saying, “I hear ringing too.” No one believed me at the time, but it is the first time I remember being conscious of the constant ringing I have heard for as long as I can remember.
Most people who have tinnitus get it from a traumatic injury to the ears, like in the case of my grandfather. For these people, it can be extremely distracting and can make everyday life hard. It can be hard to hear sounds, voices, and everyday life over the ringing; sleeping can be almost impossible; and many people are driven to thoughts of suicide just to get away from the constant ringing.
For me, I was born with it, at least that is what I assume since I can’t remember a time without it. Unlike most people who get it later in life, I don’t think about it all the time. It’s more like white noise in the background, if white nose was high pitched and screaming in your ears 24/7. It’s not something I usually think about but notice from time to time.
However, there are times that I have learned it can be at the forefront of your attention like a megaphone. This usually happens when it is quiet. My worst experience with this was in a soundproof booth during a hearing test. Yes, tinnitus can cause hearing loss. So far, I have been blessed not to have hearing loss, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy to hear. If you’d like to know what it sounds like, here is a link that gives several examples of the types you can have, but there are a lot more than just these. (Number 5 is the closest to mine.)
I believe I learned to adapt to tinnitus as a child, and the habits I created to cope then carried over into adulthood without me giving a lot of thought to them. One of them is selective hearing. I know, two words on every parent’s top five “my-kid-is-about-to-clean-the-toilet-with-a-toothbrush,” list. However, when dealing with something that never goes away (no, not the boomerang kid in the basement that you need to kick out), having selective hearing so you can ignore it is a lifesaver.
Now there are a lot of tips online about how to deal with tinnitus. I’m not a professional by any means, so I can only tell you what works for me and hope it helps. Some people have things that work better for them, and others do not like them. Don’t be afraid to test out different things, to find what works best for you. Please keep in mind that if you are suffering from this, and it is causing a disturbance in your life, there are support groups you can reach out to. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to get the help you need.
Without further ado, my top five tips for dealing with tinnitus while writing:
While this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, being stuck anywhere without some type of airflow can make the ringing seem louder and draw it to the forefront of my attention. Turning a fan on low, cracking a window, turning on the A/C, etc., are small things, but they make a big difference for me.
4) Using the TV for background sound
For me having some kind of low sound in the background is helpful. Sure, there are some things I find distracting and want to watch, but if you are using the TV for background noise, you don’t want to play the latest season of your favorite show. It doesn’t even have to be loud enough to understand what is being said, just enough to know it is there.
3) White noise
Soothing background sounds help many people relax, but it can also be helpful to mask the sounds of tinnitus. My favorites are rain, thunderstorms, or even a fan. You could also try the beach, birds, forest sounds, crickets, or other ambient sounds.
This one is not always right for everyone, but when I am writing or doing work that needs mental focus, I will listen to instrumental music. I dislike music with words, because they are clearly a singalong, and small children five miles away will scream in terror at my tone-deaf voice. I originally started by typing “epic music” and the type of theme I was looking for into YouTube. They have a ton of hour-long videos that are instrumental pieces. However, I am easily distracted and need something different. I now use Amazon music to listen to Lindsey Stirling, Phil Ray, Epic North, and so many more. I can play this music in the background and block YouTube while I am writing, because otherwise I will suddenly need to watch something to reach (of course!) then, three hours and 8,000 videos later, wonder why I finished so little work. Find what type of music you like, and see if this is a good option for you.
1) Sleeping with a fan beside your bed
For all of us, sleep is important. Since I am a caregiver and some nights that means you could get better sleep with a newborn, it is extra important to get the best sleep you can when you can. Seriously, falling asleep for two hours on a hardwood floor because you’re so exhausted is not recommended … or in the folding chair … or in the barn … or in the kid’s sandbox when you forgot to put the sunscreen on.
I, like so many others, get into a nice quiet bed and hear nothing but ringing in the ears. It’s like the ringing waits for things to turn quiet so it can turn up the volume and laugh maniacally. It doesn’t, but it can feel like it.
When I was young, my father always had a box fan on at night. We were poor and didn’t have AC or anything but a small gas stove in the winter. Airflow was important to cool down in the summer and make sure the whole house was heated in the winter. I remember the first night I left home and tried to sleep. It was horrible! In the following weeks, I finally discovered that the fan had not only helped with room temperature but had masked the sound of ringing at night.
If you are plagued with this at night, I recommend trying a fan. Some people like it higher, and some lower. Try it out and see what works best for you.
Those are my top five recommendations, but as always, I would love to hear from you. Do you suffer from tinnitus or know someone who does? Did you try any of these? Do you have another recommendation?