The fact that there is no true cure for noise-induced tinnitus should never discourage us to stop exploring treatments in the quest for some relief and better being able to manage one’s tinnitus.
However, I would argue that the number one most important thing in preparing yourself to successfully manage your life with tinnitus is acceptance.
As a result of an extended period of attending heavy metal concerts, I got noise-induced tinnitus at the age of 16. The biggest mistake I did was not to, from the very beginning, work with myself enough to reach true acceptance of having tinnitus 24/7. It took me many years until I was able to fully embrace the fact that, yes, there are certain limitations to my life, but more importantly, there are so many things in life that I can still thoroughly enjoy without feeling too hindered.
In my case, the lack of acceptance meant that I was embarassed to show my perceived weakness to others. I felt ashamed of showing that I was wearing earplugs which, on some occasions, had the consequence that I stayed in a too loud environment for too long without using my earplugs. On a few occasions, it even meant that my tinnitus got permanently worse.
The lack of acceptance also increased my focus on the negative consequences in my life instead of fully embracing all the things I could still enjoy. Instead of beating myself down for not being able to partake in social activities in loud environments such as nightclubs, I should instead have been more creative and decided to arrange more social activities at my place and seen more opportunities to e.g. meeting girls in other places than loud bars and clubs.
Acceptance is so vital to successfully managing your life with tinnitus and to avoid the mistake of worsening your tinnitus due to going to loud environments for too long and/or without properly protecting your ears. In order to be on your way to eventually reaching acceptance and not carrying around feelings of shame, frustration, despair or any other destructive feelings, I advise you to start doing the following things today:
- Tell your family and friends in detail about what tinnitus is, what it means and how it affects you. Tell them that you would appreciate any support in terms of e.g. them suggesting activities in low- to medium-noise settings to make it manageable for you.
- Tell your family and friends that you may sometimes need their help in rearranging things to make it more bearable for you, even if it means leaving an event that everyone involved had been looking forward to attend. If you find yourself to be in a noisy setting that just does not work for you – your tinnitus may have become aggravated – then what you should do is to stand up, explain to the persons you went there with and leave. Do not feel concerned about what others think – you have to put your health first. Although, I’d advise you to be so clear to your family and friends that they should not feel that they have to leave as well. In the end, it’s up to them, but you should get used to sometimes actually having to leave yourself and that’s fine. The most important thing is that you continuously TRY to be part of social activities. It is crucial to not isolate yourself, avoiding noise altogether – that can make your ears more sensitive over time. Instead, try to explore and find out what noise level works for you and if you have to spend time in noisy settings, make sure to use proper ear protection.
- Show openly when you put in your ear plugs. There is no reason for you to hide the fact that you have a handicap. This may spark people’s attention and they may ask you questions which is a great thing through which you can help them to understand you and show you empathy. Alternatively, choose to proactively explain what you are doing and why in order to remove any questionmarks on their end. I remember having been on dates and doing everything to hide my ‘weakness’ to the girls since I was concerned they might have an issue with it. Obviously, that was the wrong way of going about things. There are so many caring individuals in this world and you want to make sure to be with someone who will want you for exactly who you are. A positive side effect of sharing your tinnitus with others is that, in return, many people will start to open up and tell you about the problems they are facing. Openness is a wonderful thing that opens doors and forges intimate relationships with others.
- Book an appointment with a therapist via your local tinnitus medical team since it will also be good to talk things through with an objective voice that can help you address the areas that still needs solving in terms of reaching the right level of acceptance to be able to focus on the right and most constructive things in life.
This is all easier said than done. But if you can reach acceptance a lot faster than I did then you are sure to be much better off.
Please, let me know what you think. Are you new with tinnitus and do you recognize feelings of it being hard to reach acceptance? What obstacles are you experiencing?
And if you have had tinnitus for some time, how did you reach acceptance? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.