3 minute read

Tinnitus and the menopause




By Louise Furby

Events and communications manager at Specsavers

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no corresponding external sound is present. It can be a ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or other noise and the sensation can be constant or intermittent, vary in volume, and occur in one or both ears.

Those who have experienced tinnitus will know that it can vary in its severity and for some, it can be a very distressing and debilitating condition. The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) reports an estimated 13.2% of the British population suffers from persistent tinnitus which is around 1 in 8 people.

Luckily, for many sufferers, tinnitus is a mild irritation. For me, I notice it most at bedtime when the house is at its quietest and just after I plug in my earplugs, ready to drown out the freight train already snoring beside me!

Tinnitus is also a condition that can be aggravated by psychological events and experiences. With many menopausal or perimenopausal women reporting a noticeable increase in their tinnitus during this time, it’s no surprise that a change in oestrogen levels can cause tinnitus to be another one of those menopausal symptoms that many women are dealing with.

The change in oestrogen levels is the key factor here because we all know the impact that those changing hormones can have on us during menopause and perimenopause. Put simply, the speed at which our senses react and heighten during menopause is a key factor for many women noticing tinnitus during this time. Health and wellbeing

The good news is, there are many ways you can help ease tinnitus side effects and most of these are very easily adopted.

And it’s mostly about treating the external reaction, rather than the symptom itself, meaning that many of us can apply quick solutions to the problem.

•For those who notice the condition more at night, try having a low-level sound to help mask the ringing such as a fan, music or a sleep app that uses rainfall, seashore, or similar sounds to help aid sleep

•Techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural

Therapy (CBT) can help manage the effect that tinnitus has on your life by offering techniques that can help you deal with anxiety and distress

Like many menopause-related symptoms, a healthy, balanced lifestyle really can work wonders so exercise can help too.

•Try exercises that improve strength, cardiovascular fitness, suppleness, and flexibility

•Find ways to manage stress levels like deepbreathing exercises and relaxation techniques. This can reduce the volume of your tinnitus as well as breakdown stress levels and anxiety

•Yoga is a great way to improve your strength, balance and flexibility and includes deepbreathing exercises to increase blood flow, which sends a message to your brain to simply calm down and relax.

Any regular exercise helps us to achieve a higher level of well-being to manage and cope with tinnitus.

And consider those external factors too. Being in a loud, noisy environment can exacerbate tinnitus so try methods to reduce your exposure like earplugs or sound therapy. Even medication can have an effect, so talk to your doctor if you think this could be making your tinnitus worse. Finally, consider your diet

•Reduce your caffeine intake. Increased levels of caffeine – found in tea, coffee, energy drinks and supplements – can increase your blood pressure which is often a trigger for the condition.

•Alcohol consumption should always be in moderation and also leads to an increase in blood pressure, so limit or reduce your intake if you notice a link. • And, as if you needed another reason to avoid nicotine, smoking can be another trigger, in two ways. Firstly, an increase in blood pressure yet again and secondly, smoking causes blood vessels to narrow which lessens the amount of oxygen getting to the ears, therefore heightening the perception of external sound.

•Finally, it goes without saying that the consumption of water to keep yourself hydrated is a benefit to us all. For tinnitus sufferers avoiding dehydration could help diminish tinnitus – there is no conclusive evidence to support this, but some sufferers have reported that the consistent intake of large amounts of water for long periods can reduce their tinnitus symptoms, because if you are not drinking enough water your blood vessels can constrict, adding pressure to your eardrum.

Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition, but there are some great ways to help you manage your symptoms and improve your experience of the condition.

The British Tinnitus Association has some excellent support available including prevention advice, quick guides and hearing loss information.