Do you ever hear a ringing in your ears in a silent room? Does your head ever ‘make noise’ with no identifiable cause? If so, you may have a condition called tinnitus, a condition that affects approximately five million Australians at any given time. Recently, a spate of advertisements have come out promising miracle cures for tinnitus, many of which involve the use of ear plugs -- but can ear plugs assist with tinnitus? 

Short answer? Maybe. While there is no cure for tinnitus (and medical professionals remain conflicted over its cause and triggers) hearing protection can work to prevent tinnitus from getting worse, while also distracting you from the painful ringing. 

Every day at Earjobs, we talk to customers suffering from tinnitus and in some cases we’ve been able to find solutions that restore a sense of peace and wellbeing, allowing individuals to get on with their daily lives without disruptive head noises. 

In general, the question we want to ask is this: is your tinnitus aggravated by noise or silence? For some individuals, traffic, noisy neighbours, loud music, and construction can all contribute to a worsening of tinnitus symptoms. For others, their tinnitus only becomes conspicuous in a quiet or silent room. For each set of sufferers, the response is different, though we’ve had some improvements in tinnitus symptoms in each group. 

If you find your tinnitus aggravated by the noises of daily life, try ear plugs. A set of low- or medium-strength ear plugs, with acoustic filters, like you would wear to a concert can take the edge off disruptive noises, preventing tinnitus symptoms from getting worse and avoiding the triggers that launch ringing attacks. 

If this sounds like you, we recommend the Earjobs MusicMate. Optimised for concert listening, these high fidelity ear plugs are rated at about 22 SNR, which means they’re going to block out roughly 22 decibels of noise, dampening the noisy world while still allowing you to remain safe and aware of your surroundings. They’re great for commuter wear, put them on while driving, using public transport, or walking through the city and protect your ears from those tinnitus-aggravating noises. Better still, a pair of ear plugs worn while using power tools or while in a loud context will prevent tinnitus from getting worse. 

Alternatively, if your tinnitus is most noticeable in a quiet room, try covering it with a white noise machine. Bedtime has always been a critical time for tinnitus-sufferers, as the ringing can interfere with getting to sleep, creating anxiety around sleep and lowering quality of life. If this sounds like you, try using a white noise machine to cover tinnitus ringing with a soothing soundscape. 

The gold standard among white noise machines is the Lectrofan, it comes with ten fan and ten white noises, with no loops (all noises are digitally generated live!) For a small product, it has no trouble filling a room, creating a gentle wash in even the largest of bedrooms and helping you get to sleep. Alternatively, if you would like to try ambient noises instead, consider the Avantek, which comes programmed with streams, waves, wind, rain, birds, crickets, a campfire and a clock.  

In addition to the above recommendations, some simple tips for managing existing tinnitus:

  • Don’t drown it out with music. Playing loud music right into the ears is merely going to aggravate the condition over time, even if in the short term it provides some relief. In general, you shouldn’t play music over about 50% volume -- if you need to because you’re in a loud setting, it’s time to invest in some noise cancelling earbuds or some earbuds with industrial foam tips. 
  • Be proactive about protecting your ears. If you know you’re going to be heading somewhere loud, keep your reusable ear plugs on you in your backpack, wallet, or bag. A simple pair of disposable foam ear plugs in the dashboard can be an ear-saver if you happen to end up somewhere loud. Remember, lengthy exposure to loud noises will aggravate the condition. 
  • Wax on wax off. A build-up of earwax can sometimes aggravate existing tinnitus, but this is NOT a reason to start jabbing around with a Q-Tip. See your GP to have your ears rinsed clean with water or use the drops from the chemist.

  • If you’re someone who doesn’t have tinnitus, but is reading this for a friend or family member, it’s important also to recognise that hearing protection is necessary as a preventative measure against developing tinnitus. If you like loud music, use power tools, or work in a loud or industrial setting, you owe it to yourself to wear proper hearing protection. Any time you leave a show with a loud ringing in your ears, your body is telling you that your hearing is damaged, and you never know which time could cause a irreversible bout of tinnitus to begin. Ear plugs are cheap, reusable, and pay dividends particularly as you get older. If you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes or sunscreen to protect your skin, you should be protecting your hearing as well! 

    Crucially, it’s important to note, while these products can help a great deal, they won’t work miracles. Anyone who promises you an immediate cure for tinnitus is pulling your leg. Instead, the right product can work to alleviate symptoms or prevent the condition from getting worse. Proper management of tinnitus can represent a great quality of life improvement and can restore one’s enjoyment of the loud and wild world. If you have any questions about the materials discussed in this article, or if you want to discuss your condition with us directly, shoot an email to support@earjobs.com.au. All inquiries are treated as confidential and offered free with no obligation. 

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