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Tinnitus - Activities to Lessen The Impact

In the tinnitus (T) support group I lead, we discussed activities that are helpful to taking one’s mind off T. These are quite personal/individual, but what I did notice is that they have several things in common.

They are:

* Enjoyable (to the individual)

* Distracting to the brain/senses (things to look at, touch or smell. Baking, walks in the woods, socialising all tick these boxes.

* Require an amount of concentration, but not too much or too frustrating (now may not be the time to learn rocket science…)

* Do not include a trigger (these are very individual but many are quite common, including silence or loud noise)

Example: one person loves football matches and does not notice their T the whole time they're engaged in the match. Another finds the same situation aggravates their T, because their personal trigger is loud noise.

One person finds cross stitch helpful, it would drive me potty. I personally enjoy driving, and find it gets me in a zone where I don’t hear T at all. People who dislike driving find that the stress of it makes their T worse.

One chap finds DIY to be a great distraction activity. Some people would find this is outside their natural skill set and it would worsen their T. This is likely because it would require too much concentration for them, whereas a naturally skilled person needs just the right amount to distract their brain from the T signal.

Walking features quite highly on the list of common distraction activities. Being connected to the environment takes one out of their head, it's enjoyable for many and involves several senses including smell and sight. My own personal technique of 'switch listening' to environmental sounds is something I can do very easily when outdoors, so it ticks boxes for me too. As being in nature has been proven now to be remarkably effective for improving mental health, a walk in a green space is a good place to start if you're looking for a new activity.

Distraction activities are useful for people who are still on their journey to becoming habituated to their T. Habituation, as you may recall, is the 'cure' for tinnitus. A person who is completely habituated will still have T, but has no negative emotional reaction to it. It neither stresses them or provokes a response. It is never enjoyable and those people will still experience times when the T is more prominent, but the lack of an emotional response means that those times are few and far between. In habituating, even those with chronic T (constant T signal every day, forever) such as myself have reached a place of acceptance where T is simply part of life, part of themselves. It is the holy grail that T sufferers are seeking, even if they don't know it yet. Seeking a cure, an end to T, is a frustrating and unachievable goal that will simply maintain your focus on T. Losing focus is the only goal worth pursuing, and it's achievable.

Obviously it's not ideal to have to keep yourself busy to distract yourself from T, but it's a tool in that personal toolkit of things to improve your quality of life. I've said it already but will say it again. Do not think about T when you are doing your distraction activity! It will indeed make it worse if you “check in” with your T during the activity every time to see if it's working! Make activities a part of your life for the reason that you enjoy them. Embrace a few different things if you can, and then assess your status infrequently to see if you're progressing toward habituation.

About the author:

Sally Jackson BSc Hons (Audiology) RHAD MSHAA

is an audiologist at Hearing and Tinnitus Care in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. She specialises in hearing rehabilitation and tinnitus habituation, working both privately and through tinnitus volunteer work with the local community. Sally has a particular research focus on the differences between those who have tinnitus but don't suffer from it, and those who suffer greatly with their tinnitus. Her personal goal is to teach the methods of habituation to everyone who suffers from tinnitus.

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