Auditory Implant Service

Sam and Anna’s Top Tips for Tinnitus

Anna and Sam

Tinnitus is the perception of sounds which aren’t present in the external environment.  It can sound like a tone – beeping or whistling – or a noise – maybe hissing or roaring.  Some people even experience tinnitus as music, one lady describes her tinnitus as sounding like a Welsh male voice choir!

Tinnitus can be perceived in one ear or both ears, or in the head.  When we hear with our implants, sound travels via the implant to the hearing nerve and on up to the brain.  A lot of auditory information is sent to the brain and it has a hard time trying to ‘filter’ out unwanted ‘activity’.  If there is a change, for example, and this can be in stress levels as well as noise levels, the brain responds by trying to get more information and this extra activity is heard as tinnitus.  It is important to emphasise that but that it results from some kind of change, either emotional or physical.  Having a cochlear implant is a major change!

Tinnitus is a very common condition with 10% of adults in the UK complaining of frequent tinnitus.  The figure is higher in people with hearing loss and a recent study suggests that between 66 and 86% experience some degree of tinnitus.   The good news is that the vast majority of people find that their tinnitus is reduced following implantation.  However, a small number (between 3% and 13%) feel that their tinnitus is worse after having their cochlear implant.

If the tinnitus is suppressed straightaway after implantation we can deduce that the new sounds being heard are helping to ‘mask’ the tinnitus.  If the tinnitus suppression is not immediate then this suggests that the brain is going to take a bit of time to ‘reorganise’ itself to try and ‘filter out’ the tinnitus.  There are lots of ways you can help it to do this so that you ‘habituate’ to the tinnitus and it interferes less with your life.

Here are our ‘top tips’ but we would love to hear from YOU – we would like to put together a booklet that can be given to people with cochlear implants who are struggling with tinnitus, a handy resource which will contain YOUR experiences and YOUR advice on how to ‘tame tinnitus’ when you use a cochlear implant.  What works? What doesn’t work?  – please email or send us your tinnitus stories, we would love to hear from you.  

  • Find out about tinnitus – The British Tinnitus Association is the best place to find up-to-date advice and research tinnitus.org.uk
  • Talk to the staff at USAIS – don’t suffer in silence, we can help. We can offer 1:1 counselling or group Workshops.
  • Find out if there are any local support groups in your area – the British Tinnitus Association will list them or we can put you in touch. Your local Audiology Department may also have a Hearing Therapist which may be easier in terms of travel
  • Remember that it DOES IMPROVE – ‘habituation’ or becoming used to the tinnitus, will happen given time – do things you enjoy and try not to focus on listening to the tinnitus
  • Take time out to relax – if you feel anxious and afraid, the tinnitus will seem worse. Find a peaceful place, slow your breathing down and pay full attention to your breaths filling and leaving your body.  Or, use visualisation to imagine yourself in a relaxing environment, a beach perhaps, the sun shining, a warm breeze…….or whatever triggers a feeling of peace and calm within you
  • Try ‘progressive muscle relaxation’ – lie down, breathe properly, tense and relax your muscles in a very structured way, from your forehead to your toes. It resets your agitation.
  • Having sound entering both ears, either via implant or hearing aids or both can help mask the tinnitus and make it less noticeable. Often people report that the tinnitus is louder when the processor isn’t being worn, ie, when taken off at night
  • A good sleep routine really helps – take time to ‘wind down’ before bed. No screens, a regular bedtime, no caffeine close to bedtime
  • Background sound helps some – tinnitus can be more noticeable in quiet environments. This can be a form of ‘white noise’, the TV or music perhaps
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – changing negative beliefs which in turn influence emotions and behaviours to find different ways of managing tinnitus
  • Mindfulness – a meditation technique which focuses on moving our attention from tinnitus by changing awareness. By creating a space from the tinnitus, we can decide how to respond to it