Knowing where to turn for help can be difficult, especially when dealing with a condition like tinnitus that lacks a definitive cure and differs dramatically between those who experience the symptom. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is an excellent resource offering unbiased advice for individuals who are experiencing bothersome tinnitus.
The ATA offers a Patient Navigator guide that can be an important first step to organize an approach to taking charge and owning the management of tinnitus. Some of the suggested steps are as follows:
- The British are known for the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Certainly, the first part of the phrase is operational when dealing with tinnitus. While unexplained noise in the ears can be alarming, the symptom is rarely suggestive of a life threatening or serious medical condition.
- If your tinnitus is present for an extended time, is bothersome, starts to interfere with your sleep, or makes you depressed or anxious, the prudent action is to seek medical attention from a trained healthcare professional. A Primary Care Physician should be able to diagnose/rule out certain causes of tinnitus, such as obstructions in the ear canal or temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) and provide a referral to the appropriate specialist. If no underlying medical issues are found, see a hearing care professional for a hearing assessment and evaluation of tinnitus treatment options.
- Do not accept “learn to live with it” diagnoses or “miracle cure” potions offered via pop up ads. Many patients are discouraged and misguided when told by healthcare providers that nothing can be done for tinnitus. While it is true that there is no cure, there are evidence-based treatments that can significantly reduce the effect of tinnitus on daily activities and improve quality of life. If a medical professional says nothing can be done, get a second opinion from a hearing healthcare professional trained in tinnitus management.
- Understand your treatment options. ATA encourages patients to utilize its website to research tinnitus management options and to ask questions about cost and research on suggested treatments. A proactive participant in determining which management option best addresses the condition is one who will likely receive good outcomes.
- Self-care Patients may improve their condition through general wellness and relaxation practices. Patients often report tinnitus becomes less burdensome through regular activities designed to be relaxing, like yoga, meditation, and listening to music. Tinnitus often disrupts sleep. Creating a sleep strategy may help. This might include sound machines, radio static, or a fan to mask the sound of tinnitus. Reduction of caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs that might inhibit sleep is recommended.
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