The longer you live with tinnitus, the more you’ll notice that tinnitus sounds can fluctuate over time. Sometimes tinnitus is louder, sometimes it’s softer. Sometimes, it’s downright uncomfortable. Tinnitus spikes can be unpredictable and disturbing. When they happen, many people find themselves wondering if their tinnitus spike could be a permanent change. The more you understand about your tinnitus, what causes it, and what a tinnitus spike is, the less anxious you’re likely to feel the next time you experience a spike.
What Is Tinnitus and How Does It Happen?
Tinnitus is not a condition in and of itself: it is a symptom of a condition. Tinnitus is a noise that you can hear, especially in quiet spaces, but which other people cannot hear. Tinnitus can take the form of a whooshing noise, ringing, a whining, clicking, or even the sound of music. Around 15% of the population is affected by tinnitus at one time or another in their life. Sometimes tinnitus goes away, if the cause itself goes away. For some people, tinnitus is a permanent part of life.
What Are Tinnitus Triggers, What Causes Tinnitus Spikes, and How Can You Find Your Triggers?
Tinnitus triggers are external factors that cause tinnitus spikes, either temporarily or permanently. Usually, tinnitus triggers are caused by problems in the environment or by your own behaviors. Tinnitus triggers vary from one person to the next. Identifying triggers can be time consuming, because there are so many possible things that could cause tinnitus to occur.
Typical triggers include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Certain noises or exposure to loud noises
- Food sensitivities
- Changes in weather
- Diets high in sodium or sugar
- Changes in barometric pressure
- Recreational drug use
How to Find Your Triggers
Most of the time, tinnitus triggers are not obvious, because of the time delay between the tinnitus and the trigger. However, one of the ways that you can find your triggers is by journaling. By tracking your behaviors, the environment around you and the start of your tinnitus, you may be able to draw a connection between the events of the day and the tinnitus spike.
When journaling, track the following:
- Stress levels
- Medications and supplements
- Severity of tinnitus
Doing this over a long enough period will allow you to make connections between the events of days when spikes occurred, and the spikes themselves.
Track the Good Days and the Bad
While some people choose only to track tinnitus on days when it is bad, tracking tinnitus when it is less severe can help you replicate the conditions that caused the tinnitus to be less severe. The more data you have about the factors that cause your tinnitus, the easier it will be for you to avoid tinnitus spikes.
What Can You Do to Manage Tinnitus?
If you have a chronic condition that causes tinnitus, you probably won’t be able to get rid of it. The only thing you can do is manage the condition so that it doesn’t bother you as much. In addition to journaling to identify triggers, there are many things you can do to make tinnitus seem less intrusive.
Stress is widely believed to be a near-universal trigger for tinnitus. If you experience regular anxiety or have a very stressful job, you’re likely to have an ongoing struggle with tinnitus. The more steps you take to manage your stress, the better off you’ll be (and the more manageable your tinnitus will become).
- Meditate, practice mindfulness.
- Get massage therapy.
- Talk to a therapist who has experience helping patients manage tinnitus.
- Take medication to reduce anxiety.
- Take hot baths.
- Go to a sauna.
- Exercise regularly.
Join a Support Group
Support groups connect people experiencing similar problems so they can brainstorm solutions together. Support groups also help reduce feelings of isolation and anger about problems, by showing people that they are not alone in their experiences.
Tinnitus is a condition that can make affected people feel frustrated, angry and even depressed. Meeting others who have experienced the same problems can be a relief, and group therapy meetings provide a safe space for affected people to discuss their experiences. Group meetings are therapeutic and can reduce stress.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can exacerbate tinnitus and conditions that cause tinnitus. Improving your quality of sleep and taking steps to ensure you’re getting enough sleep can help you control tinnitus symptoms. Establish a sleeping routine. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day. Use heavy curtains to make the room dark and ensure that you’re able to fall asleep, then continue sleeping until it’s time to wake up.
Sometimes tinnitus can prevent people from sleeping well. Use a white noise maker to mask the sound of the tinnitus. Make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
Tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand. Tinnitus can make hearing sounds in the room far more difficult, which in turn can heighten stress and lead to feelings of frustration and depression, which in turn can lead to worsening tinnitus.
Use hearing aids to make it easier to hear important sounds in the room over the sound of your tinnitus. Work with an audiologist to find the best hearing aid for your needs.
Can Tinnitus Be Prevented?
Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the ear from loud noises. You can help prevent tinnitus by avoiding very loud noises and wearing ear protection if you are regularly exposed to loud noises on the job. Some types of tinnitus are the result of chronic conditions and cannot be prevented. However, tinnitus can also be caused by problems like ear infections, which can be treated. See an audiologist if you develop symptoms of tinnitus.
If you develop permanent or chronic tinnitus, work with your audiologist to adapt. Certain therapies and medications can help you overcome feelings of depression and anger, while tools like hearing aids can help you hear sounds that you want to hear over the sound of the tinnitus. Finally, if you experience tinnitus spikes, keep a journal to discover the cause of your spikes. Knowing what causes tinnitus spikes can help you manage your condition and improve quality of life.
- Hearingloss.org, A Message of Hope for Tinnitus Sufferers – https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/Schweiter_Glenn-MessageofHopeforTinnitusSufferers-FINAL.pdf
- Tinnitus.org, Spike in Your Tinnitus During COVID-19 – https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/spike-in-your-tinnitus-during-covid-19
- American Tinnitus Association, Understanding the Facts – https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20Centers%20for%20Disease,have%20extreme%20and%20debilitating%20cases.