In the UK around 1 in 10 people suffer with tinnitus. Tinnitus is a sound or are multiple sounds that are heard in the ears or head that comes from an internal source. Only 10% of which is a sound which can be heard by someone else (caused by muscle activity/blood flow near ear) the other 90% is perceived soley by the individual themselves. Tinnitus is not specific to one type of sound, people experience it differently from hissing, ringing, humming or buzzing sounds. We discuss our top 9 tips for helping a family member or friend with tinnitus.
1) Be someone they can talk to about it.
Tinnitus can cause anxiety, stress, frustration and longterm effects such as depression. The awareness of tinnitus can feel isolating as it is only something that particular person hears. It can be a relief to talk about it to someone. You don’t need to know a lot about tinnitus just being able to listen, on the other hand your loved one may not want to talk about it but knowing they have you available to talk to will provide them with comfort.
2) Encourage them to have a chat with their GP
Tinnitus can sometimes be a side affect of medication, illness or even just compacted ear wax in the ear, so it is worth getting checked over as it may be something simple. In many cases tinnitus is not linked to a medical condition.
Their GP will also refer them on to a hearing specialist or ENT consultant who may also recommend they try a hearing aid.
3) Motivate them to wear their hearing aids (if they have hearing aids)
For tinnitus suffers who also have hearing loss a hearing aid can be a very helpful tool. Not only will it help provide lost sound but it will reduce listening stress aquired by concentrating hard on what someone is saying as well as helping to mask the tinnitus with the new sound of everyday life that comes through the hearing aid. https://www.yourhearinghelper.com/tinnitus/tinnitus-hearing-aids
4) Help them relax
Relaxation is a key part of tinnitus management, becoming less stressed will mean your loved one will be less aware of their tinnitus. Learning to meditate is one of the best ways to relax, in a day and age of fast paced living taking a few moments to sit and focus on nothing but your breathing will help create a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Here are a number of great relaxation exercises provided by the British Tinnitus Association https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/relaxation.
5) Locate soothing music and distraction sounds for them to have in the background
You can buy relaxing music on CD format, it can be streamed via online sources or even by downloading apps. The best types of sounds are natural ones, therefore even taking your friend to join you in the garden so they can hear the distraction of wildlife and weather can provide a wonderful natural distraction. If this isn’t an available option (perhaps its the depths of winter) there are a number of locations online that can provide simular sounds to as if you really were outdoors: https://www.yourhearinghelper.com/tinnitus/tinnitus-relief-apps
6) Go with your loved one to a Tinnitus Support Group
There are many support groups set up around the UK on a voluntary basis that allows people to get together to share their experiences. As a friend who does not have tinnitus themselves your support being their will help them learn from others experiences and how they manage their tinnitus. You will also learn more about tinnitus and what your friend is going through. https://www.yourhearinghelper.com/tinnitus/tinnitus-support-groups-search-our-tinnitus-support-map
7) Provide them with the best tinnitus information website links:
- http://www.tinnitus.org.uk/ (In depth information on tinnitus, relaxation techniques, tinnitus products, help and support)
- https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/your-hearing/tinnitus.aspx (leaflets on tinnitus, research into tinnitus, tinnitus support)
- https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/tinnitus/ (Tinnitus info, myths, personal testimonies, support)
8) Promote good hearing protection use
Frequent and long exposure to loud noise increases the risk to developing tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Making sure your loved one and other family and friends are taking care of their hearing will eliminate one way of which they may develop tinnitus associated to hearing loss. Encourage the use of ear protection when undertaking activities involving loud sounds such as the use of power tools and attending music concerts and make sure to look after your own hearing too! https://www.yourhearinghelper.com/ear-protection
9) Be Supportive in their ongoing management of tinnitus
Managing tinnitus is not a quick fix it takes tiime to figure out what works best for the individual, your loved one will need ongoing support. Not asking about the tinnitus but to be there for them to talk about it and help in ways mentioned in 1-7. It is very important your loved one keeps doing all the things that make them happy, such as playing music, hiking or hobbies they enjoy. If they adapt their life around the tinnitus this will only serve to provide a bigger problem in their life, one harder to live with. Plan activities together as you would normally do.