If you feel that your tinnitus makes it harder for you to hear sound sources that you’re trying to tune into, you’re not alone.
Many of us with tinnitus feel that the condition makes selective attention (where we try to focus on one sound out of many) really difficult. We might struggle with conversations in a restaurant, picking out TV dialogue from the background music, or hearing on phone calls.
Of course, some of this challenge may be due to hearing loss. If you’re wondering whether that is playing a part in your struggles to hear, I recommend you contact your local audiologist for a free hearing test. But, there are many people with tinnitus who have no hearing loss and still struggle.
Research offers differing opinions on whether, and to what extent, tinnitus affects our ability to distinguish what we want to hear from our tinnitus sound. However, anecdotal evidence from my clients, and the many people with tinnitus I have met, suggests that tinnitus certainly has a part to play in our hearing experience.
The good news is that there are lots of ways we can help ourselves to hear better. Here are some tools I use and recommend to clients:
Use assistive technology
If you have hearing aids, or use them as tinnitus maskers, there’s a wide range of assistive technology that can connect to them. I have Phonak hearing aids and have recently been testing their latest transmitter – the Roger On. As you can see, we gave it a thorough test in one of our local bars! It effectively lifts the voice of the person you want to hear above the general hubbub, which is invaluable in busy environments.
If you struggle making out speech on the TV, YouTube or on video calls, try captions/subtitles. It’s such an energy-sap trying to decipher speech that you can’t hear properly. One silver lining of the pandemic is that Zoom, Teams and Google Meet all now offer captions on their video platforms. I resisted using captions for years, but once I started there was no going back. I can’t believe how much I was missing before! I now also make sure that when I go to the theatre or the cinema that I attend captioned performances.
Everyone – whether with hearing loss or not – reads lips to a degree. But to be able to use it as a listening skill, it’s helpful to take a class. When I lost my hearing on one side, and gained tinnitus in its place, lipreading classes saved me. It wasn’t just learning the skill that helped, but the camaraderie of others who were struggling in a similar way. It was a safe environment where we could laugh at the blunders we made mishearing people or commiserate with the frustration we felt. You can find out more information about classes in various countries at the resources section on my website
When I’m struggling with hearing in a noisy environment, I turn to an app called Otter. You can record straight onto the app if you’re having a conversation. Or, if you’re in an important meeting (medical or business) and want a note of what was said that you can refer to later, you can import the recording and get it automatically transcribed. Otter offers a basic plan where you can access most of the features for free (I always like that word!). Click here to give it a try.
If you want to learn more positive ways to manage your tinnitus check out my Bee Empowered course