Sleep disturbances have affected almost most of us at some stage in our lives. Although insomnia prevalently affects mostly the older adults, it is seen in children as well. While some might have faced it for some mild or moderate reasons or health conditions, some suffer from insomnia due to serious reasons. The worst part is when it has become a regular aspect! According to a study, 54% of the people who have tinnitus problems, also have significant sleep disturbances.

But what if your sleeping disturbances are due to hearing problems like an impaired hearing or tinnitus? People with tinnitus might have greater difficulty in getting a proper night’s sleep. Obviously, there are a host of exercises that would help you out in getting better sleep, but the first and foremost step would be to get your ears checked for any hearing problems, and if any, start its treatment at the earliest - be it a treatment for your tinnitus problems or a hearing loss treatment, or even both.

But how would you know whether your sleeping disturbance is serious enough?

 

Insomnia vs. Mild Sleeping Disturbances

Insomnia is a condition in which a person has difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Do not get confused with mild sleeping disturbances, because insomnia is something much more serious. To be classified as insomnia, a lot of aspects needs to be taken into consideration such as the delay in going to sleep or going back to sleep. If your sleeping disturbances occur at least three to four times in a week and persist for six months or more, then you are most probably suffering from insomnia.

 

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of abnormal sounds in the ears when there is no external sound present. While ringing is the most common tinnitus sound, other sounds include buzzing, hissing, clicking, humming and roaring.

In our previous blogs, ‘I Can Hear Ringing Sounds - Do I Have Tinnitus?’ and ‘How to Beat Tinnitus?’ you have seen what tinnitus is and what are the types of sounds one gets to hear in such a condition.

 

What are the Causes of Tinnitus?

There can be many causes of tinnitus, such as -

  • Exposure to loud noises

  • Ear infections

  • Injuries in the ear, neck or head

  • Hearing loss (though not every case of tinnitus is due to hearing issues)

  • Earwax buildup

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Cardiovascular diseases

  • Thyroid disorders

  • Certain medications and drugs including antibiotics, antidepressants, cancer medicines and very high doses of aspirin

Tinnitus can affect different people in different ways. While some experience constant buzzing while others might hear only sporadic buzzing, hissing or whistling sounds.

 

How Does Tinnitus Affect Sleep?

It’s quite obvious that if you hear disturbing and often frustrating sounds almost all the time, you are bound to experience some kind of sleep disturbances. While in the daytime, you remain busy in some activities, thus being able to forget about your tinnitus sounds at least for some moment. But when you are back at home and are sitting in some quiet room with very minimal or no background sounds, or while you are in your bed, trying to sleep, the tinnitus sounds becomes all the more noticeable and frustrating. This contrasting situation between a quiet room and a continuous series of buzzing sounds in the ears are bound to make the condition more disturbing than usual.

Due to tinnitus you also feel very tired and fatigued even during the day. The worst part is, all these situations might gradually lead to stress and anxiety, thus making it difficult for you to fall asleep. So if this situation sounds like you, then the first thing you must aim at is to try and get a sound sleep each night - because proper rest is what you need at the end of the day - no matter what your health conditions are.

There may be several sleeping problems associated with tinnitus, including -

  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

  • Not getting enough sleep

  • Waking up frequently in sleep

  • Experiencing poor quality sleep

  • Not feeling refreshed in the morning

  • Feeling fatigued and tired throughout the day as a result

 

How to Sleep Better With Tinnitus?

There are some proven techniques that would help you have a better sleep if you are suffering from tinnitus. Here are some of them -

  • Avoid a too quiet bedroom - It would make you more conscious about your tinnitus problems and thus make you unable to sleep.

  • Use white noise to mask your tinnitus sounds - Tune in to a low volume and soothing background music that would help you to relax and sleep better. This noise suppression technique is quite effective and is recommended by Audiologists worldwide.

Certain devices which are helpful in masking tinnitus sounds include -

    • White noise machines - These devices produce stimulated environmental sounds such as the rushing waterfalls, the rustling of the leaves, pitter-patter of the rain, the ocean waves and other such nature-like sounds. These act as a calming effect on your mind by masking the tinnitus sounds.
    • Hearing aids - Certain hearing aids come with noise masking or noise suppressing features which can be quite helpful if you have both hearing loss as well as tinnitus.
    • Masking devices - These are worn in the ear and are similar to hearing aids. These devices produce a continuous, low-level noise which helps to suppress the symptoms of tinnitus.
    • Tinnitus retraining - Tinnitus retraining is a habituation therapy designed to provide relief to people suffering from tinnitus. Using tinnitus masking devices over time can help you get accustomed to these sounds so that you can shift your focus to something else. This technique is a type of counselling which is an essential component of tinnitus retraining.
  • Improve blood flow to your head - This means you need to exercise. For example, jogging, swimming, cycling, running, or yoga would be quite beneficial to you.

  • Making some lifestyle changes and following some home remedies - Often tinnitus in many cases can’t be treated and people gradually become used to it, with the result being they can now more easily distract themselves from these sounds. For many, some home remedies might help make these sounds less noticeable -

    • Manage stress - Whether through relaxation therapy or exercise, stress management can help relieve tinnitus to a great extent, because stress worsens tinnitus.
    • Avoid irritants - such as caffeinated drinks, or nicotine and even loud noises.
    • Mask the noise - If you are in a quiet room, a fan or soft music might help mask the tinnitus sounds.
    • Reduce alcohol consumption - Tinnitus is aggravated when alcohol causes the blood vessels to swell which results in an increase in the blood flow within the inner ear.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation - It involves sitting quietly and paying attention to your natural breathing. The idea is to distract yourself from those irritating tinnitus sounds as this meditation helps you to stop worrying about how you would sleep, work or stay focussed and the like. Start with a 5-minute session and as you would start growing comfortable with it, you may increase the timing. The best part is, you can practice mindfulness meditation anytime and anywhere!
  • Use other relaxation techniques - like deep breathing, aromatherapy, etc. aromatherapy is a process by which natural elements like plant materials and aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds, are used to improve the psychological or the physical well-being of a person.

  • Seek out cognitive-behavioural therapy - It is effective for reframing and eradicating negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It helps manage with stress, anxiety disorders and depression. Cognitive-behavioural therapy or CBT is also highly effective in treating insomnia and other sleep disorders.

  • Limit the use of earplugs - it will soften down external sounds, thus making tinnitus more noticeable. Also, using earplugs for longer periods of time can cause earwax buildup - which can further cause tinnitus problems.

  • Don’t ignore ear pain - Pain or discomfort in your ears can be the signs of tinnitus. Consult your Audiologist immediately whenever you face an ear pain.

  • Treat your hearing problems on time - Seeking hearing loss treatment at the earliest will help reduce tinnitus problems. Also, as already mentioned, there are some advanced digital hearing aids which are designed to provide relief to these annoying tinnitus sounds.

  • Treating an underlying health condition can help! Often, there are certain health conditions which are associated with tinnitus. Consult an Audiologist and get to know the reason behind your tinnitus and accordingly do consider treating that before anything else. For example, removing your hardened earwax or treating a blood vessel condition, or even changing your medication can help with tinnitus relief.

  • Alternative medicine - Some alternative therapies that can help manage with tinnitus include -

    • Acupuncture - it is effective for the treatment of tinnitus
    • Ginkgo biloba - this tree is clinically used for the treatment of inner ear disorders like hearing loss, dizziness, and tinnitus
    • Melatonin - melatonin supplements might help ease out and curb tinnitus
    • Hypnosis - Hypnotherapy can help alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus
    • Zinc supplements
    • B vitamins

You will find great information about the possible treatments of tinnitus in the following link. Do check it out: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350162

Tinnitus is the cry of dying ears! Seek immediate help, and if hearing loss is the underlying cause, go for a proper hearing loss treatment.

What do you think?

Are there any other techniques to help reduce tinnitus?

Are you aware of any technological devices which are very good for tinnitus relief?

According to the new researches, are there any chances to get permanent relief from tinnitus?

We would love to know! Do share your valuable opinions and feedback in the comment section down below.