What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a hearing condition that occurs when a person perceives hearing noise, though there is no noise coming from an outside source. The noise is generated from within the ear due to damage. Tinnitus is not a disease itself, but a symptom of damage to the ear’s hearing mechanism. The person experiencing tinnitus is the only one who can hear these sounds.
Tinnitus is extremely common and may be experienced temporarily, intermittently or permanently. A wide range of noises may be perceived, but is most often described as a ringing in the ears. The sound varies by person and that same person may experience a range of sounds that can be described as buzzing, booming, hissing, humming and pulsing, among others.
Tinnitus often has a profound negative effect on sleep hygiene. Many studies have shown a connection between tinnitus and a number of sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea and anxiety.
Dealing with Tinnitus at Night
Being in a quiet space may make the perception of the sounds louder for sufferers. For example, laying down to go to sleep in a quiet bedroom may increase the experience of tinnitus at night. This increased sound in the ears at bedtime may also lead to anxiety about falling asleep. Sleep anxiety can increase your heart rate and act as a stimulant, making it harder to fall asleep, and the cycle repeats.
Tinnitus and Sleep Apnea
Conditions such as sleep apnea can also have a negative effect on hearing. A 2014 study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that sleep apnea is related to higher rates of hearing loss and impairment. The excessive snoring often related to sleep apnea may be loud enough to cause damage to the ears.
Lack of blood flow and oxygen to different parts of the body also associated with sleep apnea may affect the ear and brain’s ability to work together properly during waking hours. Sleep apnea and tinnitus are linked again in the detection of high blood pressure in sleep apnea patients and in those with hearing impairments.
How to Sleep Better with Tinnitus
Although tinnitus can present as a rather significant disturbance, some practices can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Most of these practices are related to a person’s response to sleep anxiety and the noises being perceived.
Mindfulness and Tinnitus
Practicing mindfulness during your bedtime routine may be a good first step. A simple breathing exercise may help you accept the noises being heard and decrease any anxiety about getting a good night’s sleep. Taking a full hour before your intended bedtime to wind down from the events of the day and developing a consistent bedtime routine can help you fall asleep once it is time. There are many apps that help direct you through mindfulness exercises so you can fall asleep easier.
Ambient or White Noise for Tinnitus
Using white noise machines and other ambient sounds may also help tinnitus become less noticeable. Ambient sounds help with relaxation because they can override the tinnitus sounds that are enhanced in an otherwise quiet room. The mind focuses on the external ambient sound instead of the tinnitus sound.
Tinnitus and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is about learning how to react and respond appropriately in a situation. CBT has been used to address many medical and anxiety issues, especially when traditional medical intervention is unsuccessful or not an option. Tinnitus is one of these conditions.
Positive outcomes for tinnitus and insomnia patients have been observed using CBT. Learning ways to cope with the tinnitus noise may help you find peace and sleep. Many resources offer helpful CBT practices, and trained therapists are also available. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many therapists are offering telehealth options to eliminate any risk of spreading the disease.
Tinnitus and Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical treatment that has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and diseases and other body dysfunction. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity and loudness of tinnitus. Acupuncture has also been shown to help with reducing insomnia.
Bedtime Do’s and Don’ts for Tinnitus Sufferers
- Carve out time to wind down
- Establish a bedtime routine with consistent sleep and wake times
- Practice mindfulness and other CBT exercises
- Focus on your breathing
- Stay up until you are tired
- Use white or ambient noise (apps are available on your phone)
- Watch television right before bed
- Read on an electronic device – the blue light generated by electronic screens interferes with sleep
- Check or answer email
- Read or look through social media
- Exercise too close to bedtime
- Use stimulants such as caffeine or tobacco (don’t ingest caffeine after 2:00 pm)
- Sleep with earplugs
Sonora Hearing Care knows that tinnitus isn’t just about your hearing. Suffering from tinnitus can negatively impact your mental state, mood and overall health. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of tinnitus, the team at Sonora Hearing Care is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a hearing test or speak with one of our audiologists about tinnitus treatment.