Coping - hands on, part 1 

Tinnitus can be a real handful to deal with for sure. Yeah, like you didn't know that already. One of the reasons is that for many people with tinnitus it encroaches and intrudes on the final frontier of their personal privacy, totally trashing that final shred of  human dignity to suffer in silence.

The previous articles were all about me and how tinnitus had affected my life. There's all kinds of hints and tips in the stories but they may not be all that obvious other than recognizing yourself here and there. Let's high light some of them although they won't be in any particular order. Keep in mind that we're talking coping here, not fixing or curing, as I'm not a doctor or whatever medicalician. You will be able to pick out some of these hints and apply them to your own situation or come up with a decent strategy.

 Depending on how far you've come in your travels through your tinnitus journey you might need/want to skip some of these steps.

  • Talk to others and seek medical help if necessary. If your doctor doesn't seem too caring, or interested, or gives you the "you gotta live with it" advice - don't accept that and leave. Instead tell them you're not doing too well with the living-with-it and that's why you came to see them in the first place. Give them examples of how it's affecting your life and watch their ears perk right up - now they have something they can relate to and can come up with a plan for you.
  • Don't fight your tinnitus, don't feel like you need to conquer it, or resist it - all this does is waste to energy that you need to lead your life and makes you feel even more crummy if you fail or you feel like you're "losing the battle."
  • Don't aggravate it - if you know that loud sounds bother you, or caffeine (unusual actually) or whatever else that kicks up your tinnitus a notch or two then give yourself a break and put that activity on hold for a while.
  • Go stand in front of a mirror and look at your reflection, tell it you're here to help as you understand completely what your image is up against.
  • Tell yourself out loud that "tinnitus cannot harm me" and keep repeating it like a mantra whenever your feeling down because of it. Yup, it's true: tinnitus cannot - cannot as in is not capable of - harm you. The only thing it can do is make you feel crummy.
  • Lower your sodium intake: food doesn't have to look white when you're done with the salt shaker and who knows, you might just take that high blood pressure down a notch or two.
  • Stop researching tinnitus: stop surfing the net to read all the horror stories others are all to eager to tell you - don't let their misery drag you down.
  • Keep associating sound with pleasure: listen to music or better yet, learn how to play music yourself.
  • Things you don't have to believe, or to accept: "it's permanent," nobody can guarantee you that. "It's age related," that simply is not true.
  • Avoid silence. Yes, this is what you want most but stay away from it and in the quieter times, especially at night, leave on the radio or open the window a bit - any sound is fine as it will fill the silence and gives your brain something else, besides your tinnitus, to play with.
  • I've already mentioned it but it's important enough to say it again: don't wallow in the misery of others.
  • If you're on medications: check your meds' instruction sheet to see if ringing in the ears is listed as a side effect. If so then talk to your doctor, or pharmacist, to find out if there any any that do the same job without being "ototoxic." Keep common sense in mind though as this is not always possible.
  • Don't chart your tinnitus - it does not deserve that kind of attention.
  • If you've had it for longer than six months don't waste your time trying to figure out how you got it as that's no longer relevant and you don't want to end up blaming yourself and feeling even crummier.
  • If your nose plugs up easily do a nasal flush. Some doctor have kits available as freebie samples, see if can hit them up for one. If not, you can buy them at your local pharmacy, they're not expensive. My ENT gave me one made by NeilMed and a recipe for making my own saline flushing solution: boil 1 liter of water to sterilize it and dissolve 1 teaspoon of additive-free salt. Oh, and to be sure - wait till it cools down before blowing it up your nose eh... It's best to do the flushing while you're under the shower cause it's pretty gross with the gunk that might come drooling out. I often hear/feel my ears pop while I do it and that's a good thing as it also equalizes the pressure in your ears and woohooo, I can hear better for a while.
  • Earwax is one of the most common causes of tinnitus so if your ears plug up with earwax easily then get yourself a condiment bottle from a dollar store, you know one of them ketchup or mustard dispensing thingies. Like the nasal flush, do it under the shower - fill up the bottle with the nice and warm shower water and spray it in your ear to flush out the earwax. For my "mustard" bottle it takes three or four shower water refills and a thud on the shower stall floor tells the story - a big plug of ear wax now gone and after I'm toweled off I celebrate it by putting on my favourite CD because I can hear all the sounds nice and clear again. Important to remember: you're not doing this for hygienic reasons and do NOT do it any more frequent than once every 4 months as your ears need the stuff to keep themselves healthy. By the way, if the water is clean enough to shower with it's clean enough for your ears.
  • Tinnitus, the brat: yup, it's a brat all right, always demanding to be the center of attention and it don't give a rat's ass about you. Here's the news folks: feel free to treat it in kind and to heck with IT - keep living your life, keep doing your stuff and let the spoiled brat go to heck as it's nowheres near to deserving the slightest iota of your attention
  • Have faith - there's better days ahead. Read one of my previous articles about tinnitus and faith.
  • Musicians: make sure you read my previous article for you fine folks.
  • Back to the mirror - sit, or stand in front of it and say a prayer for the image looking back at you. Nope, you don't have to be religious to do this but it can be awfully inspiring and comforting to hear "someone else" treat you on some kind and understanding words.
  • Do not set yourself up for disappointments: realize that getting over tinnitus is not an event - it's a process. Meaning of course, it's not going to happen overnight as it might take a while.

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