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Living with Tinnitus: What to Expect After a Diagnosis

by Roel van Gorkum
| October 13, 2022

You just found out that you have tinnitus–learn what to expect from this condition going forward.

Tinnitus is a prominent condition that can range from mildly inconvenient to debilitating depending on its severity. When you receive your official tinnitus diagnosis, it can be a little unsettling. Don’t worry—a diagnosis is your first step toward understanding this condition and seeking treatment. In this article, we are going to explore what you should expect after a tinnitus diagnosis. 

What to Expect When Living with Tinnitus

After you receive your tinnitus diagnosis, chances are that you will ask yourself what it all means. You might be surprised to learn that tinnitus impacts an estimated 750 million people around the world. How does having a tinnitus diagnosis really change your life? The truth is that there really isn’t an exact answer. We all process this information differently, and our experiences can be fairly different too. With that being said, there are some common experiences that people with tinnitus tend to share.

Symptoms

The most notable symptom of tinnitus is the consistent ringing, though for some it might sound completely different. As more time with tinnitus passes, it is possible for these sounds to lead to some unexpected side effects. Many of the additional symptoms that are associated with tinnitus are related to mental health. As is the case with many people who receive a diagnosis of a chronic condition, tinnitus can lead to anxiety, depression, and even feelings of distress for some people. Stress, in particular, can actually increase these symptoms. 

Symptoms Include:

  • A continuous ringing or noise in the ears that is not physically present
  • Discomfort associated with the noise
  • Frustration or emotional distress
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble focusing
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression

Areas of Discomfort

Tinnitus can be a fairly uncomfortable condition to live with, especially as more time passes. It is common for people to experience discomfort in response to tinnitus—and if you think about it, this makes perfect sense. It can be very draining to have to constantly live with the noises that tinnitus brings. An estimated 5 million people have chronic tinnitus that is severe enough to feel burdened by the discomfort associated with the condition.

Since the intensity of tinnitus can vary from one person to the next, the discomfort levels can also shift. Some people even find themselves struggling to grasp the fact that the noise really isn’t physically present. However, tinnitus can also lead to other areas of discomfort, like tinnitus headaches, tinnitus migraines, and increased tinnitus when lying down.

Common Areas of Discomfort:

  • Emotional discomfort 
  • Feeling drained
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Frustration or annoyance

Imbalance

Though tinnitus can affect both ears, it doesn’t always happen that way. Quite a few people experience tinnitus exclusively in one ear, and this can create a feeling of imbalance for the individual. Hearing the sound consistently in one ear can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience. Some people find that it influences their sense of balance, which can cause even more problems, particularly on a bad day. Feelings of imbalance can also increase emotional distress. 

Does Tinnitus Mean You Are Losing Your Hearing?

A common fear for those that are living with tinnitus is the implications that it might offer. It is important to know that tinnitus will not lead to hearing loss itself—and it is not indicative of hearing loss at all in most cases. It is possible to have perfect hearing and still experience the consistent noises that tinnitus can bring.

While tinnitus and hearing loss are not necessarily linked themselves, it is important to be aware that hearing loss might still occur. This is not because tinnitus is causing the hearing loss. The connection between them really comes down to the risks that can lead to tinnitus. Just under 40% of individuals with tinnitus also report hearing loss. Hearing loss and tinnitus can both occur as a response to the same risks. Exposure to loud noises and ear damage are both commonly associated with tinnitus andhearing loss. 

The Mental Health Effects of Tinnitus

When you are living with tinnitus, you will find that tinnitus itself is only one part of your new life. Tinnitus, like many other medical conditions, has a tendency to weigh on the mental health of those who have it. While this is not a guarantee, it is fairly common for tinnitus to influence the mental health of those who live with it. 

Some tinnitus treatments specifically focus on mental health support. Being aware of this potential can help you to be more prepared and navigate any changes more comfortably. These tinnitus secondary conditions can sometimes be worse than the tinnitus itself. 

Common Mental Health Effects of Tinnitus:

  • Stress responses
  • Emotional discomfort
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling isolated
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Stress Responses

Tinnitus can be a fairly stressful condition, particularly if you have a severe case. It is natural for anyone to feel stressed out when they learn that something is happening in their body that is beyond their control. Many people experience stress when they receive their diagnosis, even if it is just temporary. Tinnitus and anxiety can also come hand-in-hand for some of us. Living with tinnitus causes ongoing anxiety for some people.

Unfortunately, stress can also act as a trigger for tinnitus. Some people find that their tinnitus gets worse when they experience stress, which can make the situation feel noticeably worse. These feelings can compound with time. It is important to remind yourself that it is a normal and understandable response. If you have been struggling to come to terms with your diagnosis, you might even benefit from working with a mental health professional

Stress Responses Can Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Overstimulation
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Woman having emotional anxiety health effects caused by Tinnitus

Emotional Discomfort

Living with a condition that feels beyond your control is difficult—and the truth is that, sometimes, tinnitus can be downright annoying. For those of us who have it, tinnitus can feel like an unwanted nuisance, particularly during high-stress times. It is completely natural to feel emotional discomfort, so don’t criticize yourself if you experience it. Remember, we all cope in our own ways. Give yourself a little room to go through any emotions that you need to process. 

Sleep Interference

One of the contributing factors to tinnitus’ negative mental health effects is how it impacts sleep. While not everyone has their sleep influenced by tinnitus, quite a few people report difficulty sleeping as one of their symptoms. Some people experience tinnitus worse at night. 

Tinnitus does not influence sleep directly, but the experience with it can lead to lost sleep. For those who have chronic tinnitus, it can be difficult to fall asleep for a pretty obvious reason—the noise. Having a constant ringing in your ears can be fairly distracting. For some, it can feel like you never get to sleep in a quiet room. 

Not sleeping well can contribute to anxiety and depression—but that isn’t all. Sleep is very important. When we miss out on sleep, our memory and decision-making abilities suffer, and it can be fairly common to struggle with concentrating. When you miss sleep because of tinnitus, you can end up with a new set of symptoms associated with sleep loss

Signs of Sleep Interference:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Feeling like you didn’t rest even after a full night of sleep

Feelings of Isolation

There is a lot of emotional processing that goes into living with tinnitus, but one emotion can be more difficult to cope with—the feeling of isolation. When you are diagnosed with any medical condition, you will suddenly realize that you are a part of a new group—those who have that condition too. Though tinnitus impacts a significant number of adults, the fact remains that tinnitus doesn’t impact everyone. Realizing this can be pretty difficult.

Tinnitus does not include a “real” noise in the traditional sense. That means that, at all times, you are hearing something that others are not hearing. It is natural to feel isolated and frustrated in response to this. For those with tinnitus, it can feel like those without it don’t truly understand what it feels like. Connecting with others who also have tinnitus can be a particularly freeing experience and help you to feel more supported with the condition. 

Feelings of Isolation Look Like:

  • “I wish someone understood this”
  • “No one knows what I’m going through”
  • “No one else has to live with this”
  • “I am frustrated and no one understands the cause”

Tinnitus Treatments and Potential Outcomes

Tinnitus is considered a chronic condition, but the experience can differ quite a bit from one case to the next. You might be wondering what your options are when it comes to coping with tinnitus. Is there something that you can do to treat this condition? What options do you have to treat your tinnitus—and how effective are they? Let’s take a closer look at this. 

Can Tinnitus Be Treated?

Tinnitus treatments are a big point of interest for those with tinnitus—but they can also be a point of concern. You might have heard that tinnitus can’t be treated and that you just have to learn to live with it. It is true that some people spend their entire lives with tinnitus, but that really isn’t your only option.

Tinnitus can be treated. In fact, many people have experienced successful responses to tinnitus treatments. There are a growing number of treatment options available that can provide valuable results. Many people try different tinnitus treatments to find one that works for them. New treatment options are being introduced regularly as we learn more about this condition and what can help.

Common Treatment Methods

There are plenty of different treatment options available, but some of the treatment options are considered more common than others. The first “treatment” option that most doctors consider will depend on the cause of your tinnitus. Since some people experience tinnitus in response to other medical conditions or medications, it is common to treat tinnitus by treating the other condition or stopping the medication if the tinnitus becomes too severe.

For those who don’t have a sudden and clear reason for their tinnitus, there are other treatment options that can be helpful. The first is to begin by thoroughly cleaning the ear. For some, the cause of their tinnitus can be caused by earwax buildup, though it isn’t the most common cause. When this occurs, simply removing the earwax can alleviate the symptoms. It is important to avoid sticking anything into your ears in order to clean them. While you can clean the outside of your ears with a washcloth, the best results come from having your doctor do it.

Other common treatments for tinnitus target the ears themselves. Hearing aids, masking devices, and white noise machines can be particularly helpful in combating the ringing associated with tinnitus. 

As an additional treatment approach, it is common for tinnitus to be treated with therapy. The two most common types of therapy for treating tinnitus are tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These treatments can assist with the primary noise symptom, as well as the associated mental health symptoms simultaneously. 

Common Treatment Methods:

  • Stopping or lowering medication doses in cases where medication is the problem
  • Having your ears professionally cleaned
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Hearing aids
  • Masking devices
  • White noise machines

Does Tinnitus Treatment Work?

The effectiveness of tinnitus treatments has been a point of discussion for a significant amount of time. If you look into tinnitus treatments, it is inevitable that you will find someone who claims that there is no true treatment and that you have to live with tinnitus for the rest of your life. While this might reflect that person’s experience, it is important to know that this is not accurate for everyone. Tinnitus treatments can absolutely work—and do for plenty of people. 

A New Approach

When I founded Still Tinnitus, it was because I wanted to help people just like me. After spending so much time living with tinnitus, I knew that I wanted a dedicated way to alleviate my symptoms. The Still Tinnitus method is an approach that I developed by combining a collection of clinically-proven methods for treatment after exploring the medical reasoning behind this condition. 

Now, my Tinnitus is almost always silent and I’m sharing my method with others to help them say goodbye to the constant ringing in their ears. Bringing together extensive research, common therapeutic techniques, and exercises, the Still Tinnitus method was made for those with tinnitus by someone who actually knows what it is like to live with it!

Conclusion: Does Tinnitus Change Your Life?

A tinnitus diagnosis can be a life-changing event, and you will find that living with tinnitus can be a big change. However, life with tinnitus does not mean that you have to live with years of discomfort and suffering. With understanding and treatment, you can make the tinnitus period of your life a much shorter chapter of your overall story! 

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Roel van Gorkum Founder of Still Tinnitus

About me

I was suffering badly from the ringing in my ears. I battled and battled – only to make it worse. Then, I started learning and developed a solution. Now, I help others find tinnitus relief.

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