If you suffer from tinnitus it can feel like you never have any respite from this irritating constant sound, and this can be very distressing. This hidden chronic condition leaves many suffering in silence – literally! The quieter the ambient background, the more your mind will notice the tinnitus.
Many tinnitus sufferers talk of their grief about never being able to enjoy the peacefulness of silence again. And this is certainly a loss. However, an interesting point to consider is that “silence” in nature is a sign that a predator is approaching and thus, in reality, a more relaxing and soothing sound environment would have the sounds of nature like chirping birds and crickets. Enriching background surroundings with sounds of nature can provide the tinnitus sufferer with some relief as it distracts and may even mask the tinnitus.
Enrich your sound environment
With tinnitus, it is worth experimenting with a range of sounds such as relaxing music or recordings of sounds from nature like moving water, birds and insects, wind or white noise. You can find more information about tinnitus and some free sound recordings to install on your computer and play in the background on this excellent website (click on "about tinnitus" and then on drop down menu, click on "sound enrichment" and scroll down to their free download called Aire Freshener). Alternatively you will find some Apps with sounds to mask tinnitus that you can always have with you on your phone. As tinnitus often makes sleeping difficult, it may help you to sleep by having these soothing sounds playing in the background.
We notice the negative
One of the reasons that tinnitus is so hard to ignore is that our brains are wired to make us pay much more attention to negative stimuli than positive stimuli. Paying attention to negative stimuli and noticing threats has survival value. Thus, we are automatically more aware of the negative, and tend to easily over look the positive.
Tinnitus Free Moments
To counteract this, we need to actively work at paying attention and recalling positive experiences and times we seem to be free of the tinnitus. So become more mindful and appreciative of the “tinnitus free moments.” These times occur when ambient sound masks the tinnitus. This will vary for different people, but examples of such moments may include:
- Having a shower
- Being outdoors with nature
- Anything that gives you wind in your ears e.g. riding a bicycle, boat or convertible car
- Listening to a fountain or other water features
- Being in a noisy restaurant or nite club
- Listening to a live band
- Walking along the beach
Make your list
Experiment with situations like these to see if they work for you. Be on the lookout for other tinnitus free moments that you may discover. Start to make your own personal list of these times and learn to savour these moments. Keep this list handy so when your mind tells you things like “I can’t stand this... I am never free of this” you have the evidence to challenge these unhelpful negative thoughts that are compounding your distress. You will also be more aware that there are times you can count on for some respite from the tinnitus.