The COVID pandemic has also impacted tinnitus sufferers. According to a recent study of more than 40,000 tinnitus sufferers, the experience of tinnitus has worsened for many over the COVID pandemic, with around a third of people rating their tinnitus as more bothersome than before. A third of people in the study reported that the social and emotional effects of the pandemic made their pre-existing tinnitus worse.
This is unsurprising, as we know that stress can make tinnitus worse.
Experiencing our tinnitus worsening certainly is unpleasant, and unfortunately there is no cure or ‘off-button’. In fact, for most tinnitus sufferers, resolution of tinnitus is relatively uncommon. However, the good news is that some simple habits can get you on your way to managing your tinnitus more effectively, and hopefully help it to bother you less.
Our experience of tinnitus is largely affected by our psychological reaction to it. This means our thoughts and behaviour have the power to drive our experience of tinnitus and vice versa.
To break the cycle and help our tinnitus to become less bothersome, we can focus on managing our stress state. This helps to react to our tinnitus less and help us to habituate (become used to it).
Relaxation and mindfulness techniques are great tools to do this.
A simple and effective method of relaxation is to practice deep breathing. Breathing techniques help manage tinnitus as they stimulate the body’s relaxation response, bringing a sense of calm. There are plenty of variations to try. We recommend trying out the 3-6-5 breathing method.
The method behind this is simple. Aim to complete this exercise three times a day for five minutes at a time. You should try to breathe six times a minute, or once every ten seconds. Inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds.
As we practice this slow and deep breathing, we are reducing our heart rate and blood pressure, and counteracting the effects of stress hormones in the body. This helps to feel more calm and relaxed.
Relaxation requires practice and repetition for it to be effective. Try incorporating this quick and easy method into your everyday life - 365 days a year!
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that has proven to be effective for the management of many conditions including chronic pain, depression and anxiety. Research has also shown that regular mindfulness practice significantly reduces tinnitus distress.
Mindfulness practice teaches us to take a step back from our thoughts and feelings and observe them objectively, with kindness and curiosity. The purpose of mindfulness is not to ‘switch off’ our tinnitus, but to get to a point where it is no longer distressing or distracting. In the process of learning to stop struggling with our tinnitus, we can improve our relationship with it and our well-being along the way!
You can try out mindfulness any time! Here’s how to do it:
Sit down somewhere quiet and with limited distractions
Set a timer. It’s a good idea to choose a short period of time to begin with. Five or ten minutes is a good place to start.
Position yourself comfortably with your eyes closed.
Begin to focus on your breath. Pay attention to the way it feels as air enters and leaves your lungs. When your mind wanders (it will!), gently bring it back to focus on the breath. Without judgement, just notice your thoughts coming and going, refocusing your attention back to your breath.
It’s important to note that relaxation and mindfulness are learned skills that require regular practice. There are plenty of ways to incorporate breathing techniques and mindfulness practice into your everyday life.
The Tinnibot app by Hearing Power can support you to try out these techniques anytime and anywhere. It’s free to use and contains a variety of relaxation resources to help you reduce stress and increase your energy levels!
Download the Tinnibot app today and try it out for yourself!