Tinnitus can be an opportunity. Yes, you read that right. Its arrival, or a significant change in its behaviour, can create an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on how we are living.
I’m not advocating we simply accept tinnitus when it arrives, nor if it ramps up for a significant period of time. It’s important to see an ENT doctor and/or an audiologist to make sure that there is no cause for concern.
But assuming you have done that, and you have received the all-clear, what then?
Our first and completely natural instinct as humans is to try and fix our tinnitus. After all, there are few areas in our life that cannot be fixed. If our phone becomes faulty, we either get it repaired or get a new one. If we don’t like our job, we look for a different one. Even health conditions which used to have a poor prognosis, such as cancer, can now be treated successfully.
So, it’s not surprising that we struggle to accept that tinnitus cannot be fixed, and that, although some methods help some people, there is no one intervention that can cure us all. Instead, we find ourselves abandoned by the medical establishment we thought would help and left to create our own path on our tinnitus journey.
That’s why many people with tinnitus understandably develop an all-consuming Google research habit. A habit which throws up a mountain of information to wade through – some good, some bad, and some downright dangerous or fraudulent. The irony is that this constant activity to find some relief actually makes our tinnitus worse. Our focus on finding a cure or treatment leads us to focus on the very thing we want to get rid of. And as a result, our tinnitus becomes more and more distressing.
If that’s not the most helpful approach to dealing with our tinnitus, how do we find the right path on this challenging journey?
By stopping for a moment.
If we press pause, we can use the opportunity that tinnitus has provided to reflect on areas of our life where a small change can make a big difference to our condition.
Many of us already know that tinnitus can react badly to normal aspects of everyday life, for example, poor sleep, a lot of alcohol, caffeine drinks, salty food, and constant stress.
Maybe we’re working from home more and this has changed some of our daily habits. Pausing and taking stock may show us that our level of activity has reduced now that we no longer walk part of the way to work, or between floors at the office. We might realise that we aren’t getting as much fresh air or daylight now that the days are short and the weather gloomy.
Peering in the cupboards for another afternoon snack might suggest that the balance between foods that are comforting and those that are healthy is slightly skewed in this colder weather (or is that just me?!).
We may notice that the way TV streaming services automatically load the next episode in a series is pushing our bedtime later and later.
These are things we can fix easily, quickly and with little cost. I’m not saying that they are going to cure our tinnitus. But in my personal experience, making small adjustments to areas in our everyday life not only gives us back a feeling of control that tinnitus has stolen, but often helps reduce its volume as well.
So when you find your fingers itching to scroll Google, put your phone down or close your laptop. Pause and then ask yourself: what simple changes can I make today to create a better life?