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Coping With Tinnitus In The Workplace

For millions of people around the world, work is a place of accomplishment, social interaction, and even self-identity. Our jobs contribute to who we are as people and affect our day to day lives, hopefully for the better. But for 32% of Americans struggling with varying degrees of tinnitus, their time in the workplace can be negatively affected by this common condition. According to a 2018 Tinnitus Hub survey, tinnitus is affecting more employees and their jobs than ever, drawing attention to an often overlooked problem and the massive economic impact tinnitus can have on your paycheck and health.

38% Of Respondents Are Struggling

Analyzing the data received from 1,800 respondents, the Tinnitus Hub survey had found that 38% of those who answered reported tinnitus has negatively affected their work prospects. Over 17% had reported that their tinnitus has stopped them from pursuing career progression, while 11% reported that they are struggling and thinking about giving up employment altogether. Most alarming, over 9% had said they have stopped working due to their tinnitus. Unfortunately, these numbers highlight the physical and mental barriers that many face in the workplace, making it harder to be productive or pursue new opportunities. Regrettably, these numbers are not surprising. Research has linked tinnitus to depression, anxiety, and mental health complications, with over 33% reporting severe depression associated with their tinnitus in some studies.

How Tinnitus Can Affect You At Work

There are multiple complications stemming from tinnitus that many of us face, including fatigue, depression, and anxiety. However, according to the Tinnitus Hub survey, respondents reported that difficulties with concentration were the biggest problems affecting them in the workplace. Survey participants reported that tinnitus negatively impacted their concentration mildly (41%), moderately (33%), and even severely (20%), with only a small minority reporting no concentration issues. Though tinnitus can cause fatigue, this trouble in concentration differs from listening fatigue that those with hearing loss experience. The constant ringing from tinnitus requires the brain to force the bothersome buzzing into the background, allowing other sounds and actions to be focused on instead. When one has to consistently block out sounds to concentrate on simple tasks, it can be difficult to focus on duties or be hopeful about future job prospects.

Work Environments May Contribute To The Problem

For some, their work environment may actually contribute to their tinnitus symptoms. Certain professions expose workers to dangerous volumes that may exacerbate or even cause tinnitus. Construction, manufacturing, and military service can expose workers to volumes exceeding 85 decibels, which can be harmful to your hearing health, but even environments with lower volumes can be detrimental. Those suffering from tinnitus often struggle with hyperacusis, a debilitating condition that makes patients hypersensitive to even typical levels of sound, like an office environment or phone calls. This can cause ear pain or spikes in tinnitus, making it difficult to perform or concentrate in common work environments.
If you are struggling with tinnitus in the workplace, seek out medical advice from a hearing health professional about treatment options and tips on how to cope. Sometimes, your tinnitus symptoms can be eased by changing medications or with assistive listening devices. Don’t lose hope when it comes to achieving your professional goals.

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Unseen Suffering: Addressing Mental Distress with Tinnitus

Tinnitus affects more than 20% of Americans across the country, ranging from a mild yet annoying ringing to a debilitating and life-altering condition. Though the bothersome buzzing can reduce the quality of life of those suffering from tinnitus on its own, there is another consequence of tinnitus that often does not get the attention it deserves. Mental distress caused by tinnitus is a serious and dangerous complication, putting a person’s mental health in a precarious position and affecting those from all walks of life. William Shatner, famous actor and star of the Star-Trek TV series, explains in an editorial for the American Tinnitus Association, “Regardless of the characters I portray on TV and on the big screen, my tinnitus once buried me in a negative place where many of you are now – or have been. Believe me when I say, “I’ve been there.” Even with high-profile advocates focusing on mental health associated with Tinnitus, this mental distress is still troublingly absent from many doctor’s offices.

Depression, Anxiety, and Isolation

Like hearing loss, Tinnitus can result in serious mental distress during your day to day activities. Anxiety, depression, and behavior disorders are believed to affect over three-quarters of people living with severe tinnitus, prompting those struggling to isolate themselves, lose sleep, and even suffer from PTSD-like symptoms.
We have all been asked if we had “woken up on the wrong side of the bed.” before, but for those with tinnitus, this expression is sometimes a matter of fact. Insomnia is common with tinnitus, creating a vicious cycle in which sleeping becomes more difficult the more you worry about your tinnitus. Surveys have linked this cycle to irritability, anger, and externalized aggressive behavior.

Self-Harm and Suicide

Unfortunately, tinnitus may lead to even more horrifying outcomes. Due to mental distress, tinnitus has been linked to higher rates of self-harm and suicidal ideation. “It needs to be something audiologists aren’t afraid of. Mental health is not a taboo subject,” said Melissa Wikoff, AuD, for The Hearing Journal, “Sometimes we think the practice of audiology is not life or death. But sometimes with tinnitus, it really can be.”
A 2019 study analyzing the connection between suicide, tinnitus, and parental mental illness had come to a similar conclusion, recommending that hearing health professionals should screen for such ideations in patients, “especially for those with symptoms of depression and a childhood history of parental mental illness.”

Don’t Keep Hidden Distress Hidden For Long

Without receiving the proper help, tinnitus can quickly overwhelm your mental health. The fact that it isn’t widely spoken about is a mistake on the part of the healthcare community, and not one you should suffer from. If you are struggling with mental distress brought on by tinnitus, there is help for you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication such as anti-depressants, and sound therapy are all treatment options that can help tame your tinnitus. As hearing professionals, we all must do better to raise awareness about the very real, yet unseen, aspects of tinnitus.

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Is My Exercise Routine Causing My Hearing Loss?

exercise and tinnitus

With centuries worth of knowledge and research surrounding the benefits of working out and your body and psyche, it’s no wonder that diet and exercise are prescribed to treat almost anything. Patients suffering from serious ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and even cancer are recommended to exercise to protect their health, but your dedication to the gym may actually cause more harm than good when it comes to your hearing. Before signing up for that new membership, learn how strenuous exercise alongside loud music could be the cause of your tinnitus and hearing loss.

Heavy Lifting and Damaged Hearing

Strenuous exercise can lead to serious exertion on your part, causing you to strain your body or hold your breath when lifting heavy weights. This extreme straining can cause a dangerous build-up of pressure within your brain known as “intracranial pressure”, which can sequentially find its way into the ears. Holding your breath while straining can compound the effect, leading to even more of this pressure in the brain and inner ear. Why is this dangerous? Increased pressure in the inner ear can cause a Perilymphatic Fistula (PLF), a small defect or tear in one or both thin membranes that keep fluid in the inner ear from reaching the middle ear cavity. If excessive pressure results in a PLF, inner ear fluid may leak into the middle ear, causing issues with balance, tinnitus, sensitive hearing, and even sudden hearing loss. These tears can heal on their own but sometimes may require surgery to the ear canal.

Turn Down The Volume of Your Workout Playlist

When committing to serious exercise, motivation is critical to reaching your workout goals. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike, the right soundtrack is vital to keeping you motivated and in the zone. But when listening to your favorite workout playlist, how loud is too loud?
Competing with noise from machines and other members, research has shown that many gyms play their music at a dangerous level to keep you stimulated, sometimes reaching volumes of 99 decibels. For perspective, the human ear can only withstand 1 hours worth of exposure to 94 decibels before damage occurs. If your ears are ringing after attending your next spin class, it might be beneficial to ask your gym to lower the tunes.
Most people exercise to their own catered playlist though, often played through headphones at an ear-splitting level. With iPhones capable of reaching volumes of 110 decibels (the equivalent of a live rock concert), you could be subjecting your hearing to 16 times the level deemed safe every time you hit the gym.

What You Can Do

  1. Lowering the volume during your next workout can save you from the bothersome buzzing of tinnitus or permanent hearing damage. Use the built-in volume limit feature on your iPhone or politely ask the gym to lower the music.
  2. If you know you will be subjected to loud noises such as music or members dropping weights, consider wearing ear protection on your next visit.
  3. Reduce the weight. Lifting far more than your body can handle may look cool, but a PLF is not.
  4. If you experience hearing loss or symptoms of tinnitus after a workout, seek out the advice and help of a health care provider or audiologist.
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The Insomnia And Tinnitus Connection

insomnia and tinnitus

Fifty million Americans experience the ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing, humming, and other noises that accompany tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a disease, but somewhat of a symptom of an underlying problem. There is a variety of conditions that can cause tinnitus with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. There is also a connection between tinnitus and a good night’s rest as many people with tinnitus have difficulty sleeping. However, treatment for the two is similar and can be useful.

Tinnitus And Insomnia

The problems a person who has tinnitus experiences may not be limited to a ringing noise in the ears. It is possible that a sleep disorder may be connected with tinnitus and have life-changing effects for a person. According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, chronic insomnia is difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep for three months. Insomnia must occur at least three times per week and also impair daytime functioning. The person with tinnitus often complains of insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, early awakenings, and chronic fatigue. Estimates indicate that 50% of people with tinnitus also have chronic insomnia.

The Connection

The effect of tinnitus on a person is very much like that of the impact of insomnia. When a person experiences both at the same time, shared psychological patterns and worries become a common theme. The more intense the severity of tinnitus is, the higher the chances that the person will experience insomnia. Cognitive distortions and negative thoughts are common among both tinnitus and insomnia patients. Avoidance behaviors develop which add to the negative thinking.

Treatment

Because insomnia is a frequent complaint of those with tinnitus and the two share similarities, treatment should share a common goal. It is common for healthcare professionals to recommend benzodiazepine medications such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin to help people with insomnia sleep. The issue with these medications is that they are highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms of these medications can be worse than the symptoms for which they took the drugs.
Clinical trials indicate that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) provides a higher degree of sleep improvement with fewer side effects. Studies with similar findings recommend CBTI for tinnitus. Although hearing aids can reduce the impact of tinnitus, they do not benefit insomnia. A patient may find relief from alternative options such as online training for insomnia and mindfulness-based stress reduction for tinnitus. Melatonin can help reduce insomnia and tinnitus according to studies. Because of the minimal side-effects associated with Melatonin, the researchers recommend it be a part of treatment for both tinnitus and insomnia.

Get Relief Today

Insomnia and tinnitus bear similarities in their symptoms and effects. Research indicates that improvement in patients with both is possible. Remedies such as CBTI, and Melatonin, which help both problems are useful. If you have tinnitus, insomnia, or both, don’t sit on the sidelines and be miserable. Schedule an appointment today with a healthcare professional to learn what you can do for this nagging, and often life-changing conditions.

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Tinnitus is a very annoying condition – so why do so many people put off getting treatment?

why people put off tinnitus treatment

Tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, is a fairly common condition. Tinnitus is generally regarded as a symptom of another condition, rather than a condition on its own; proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying condition is needed in order to alleviate tinnitus. While it can be very annoying to those who suffer from it, people often put off getting treatment for tinnitus.
Why do so many people put off getting treatment for such an annoying condition? While the reasons vary for each individual, there are some common issues that may cause individuals to delay seeking treatment.

  • Consultation timeStudies indicate that 71.7 percent of otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) spend less than 10 minutes of counseling with their patients. When a patient is given 10 minutes or less with their medical professional, the patient may not mention tinnitus, or they may not fully explain their symptoms. This can lead to a lack of treatment for tinnitus.
  • Wait time – The waiting time to see a specialist may also deter some patients from seeking treatment for tinnitus. Many patients must wait several weeks to see a specialist after being referred by their general practitioner (GP), with 45 percent of patients waiting four to eight weeks to see an audiologist. The stress of a long wait time can also worsen tinnitus in some patients.
  • Education and knowledge among medical professionals – Education and knowledge of tinnitus varies widely among medical professionals. While it is often best to seek specialized care from an audiologist or ENT specialist for this type of condition, some GPs do not refer patients to specialists for tinnitus. Even among audiologists and ENT specialists, not all health providers are fully aware of the latest training and information on treating tinnitus or the resources available to patients.
  • Healthcare provider approach – Just as knowledge of and education on tinnitus varies among health providers, so does their treatment approach. One study reported that 14.7 of GPs seldom to never provided a diagnosis to patients suffering from tinnitus, and some GPs have told their patients that “nothing can be done” to treat tinnitus. Such an approach can prevent the patient from receiving proper treatment and may discourage them from seeking treatment from another medical professional or specialist.
  • Variation in assessment – GPs, ENT specialists, and audiologists may use varied assessments to evaluate a patient’s report of tinnitus. Because varied assessments are used, diagnosis and treatment may vary and may not be effective.
  • Unavailable services – In some cases, a GP may wish to refer a patient to a specialist, or an audiologist may wish to refer a tinnitus patient to a clinical psychologist. Some health providers lack the option to refer their patient to the proper specialist, as these services may not be locally available.
  • Ineffective treatment – Many health providers, including GPs and ENT specialists, are currently dissatisfied with the medications often recommended for tinnitus. A study reported only a 22-57 percent success rate in treatment for chronic tinnitus, and a 37-61 percent success rate in treatment for acute tinnitus. For patients suffering from tinnitus, ineffective treatment can be discouraging and frustrating, leaving them uncertain of whether effective treatment is possible.

Audiologists receive additional training to treat tinnitus and to detect the underlying conditions that may cause it. We understand how annoying this condition can be; please contact us today to learn more about how we can care for you.