From day one, my message has always been: “If you suffer from tinnitus, there’s hope.”
It was never meant to be a platitude. I truly believe it with every fiber of my being.
I’ve seen too many people find relief from debilitating, life-ruining levels of tinnitus to think otherwise. And I’ve endured my own trials and tribulations.
I wasn’t always hopeful. I’ve seen the darkness with my own eyes, and come out the other side.
And yet, with all the positivity and encouragement that I try to put out into the world, I’ve ignored the elephant in the room for far too long.
The dark, uncomfortable, tragic reality is that tinnitus occasionally drives people to take their own lives.
It breaks my heart every single time. Because I truly believe that there is hope for all of us.
But I’m seeing it more and more across social media.
Suicide is NEVER the answer to tinnitus.
But maybe, just maybe, if we talk about it in the right way, and shine awareness onto the issue, the right person will see it at the right time and choose life.
More common than we think:
Six months ago, I started helping people on a one-on-one basis as a tinnitus coach.
I mention this, because whenever someone expresses interest in working with me, I have them fill out a questionnaire. The last question appears as follows:
“Have you ever had suicidal thoughts as a result of your tinnitus?”
When I first started asking this question, I expected at least a few people to say yes.
I knew that I would be working with particularly bad cases of tinnitus, and that some of the people might have reached that level of hopelessness.
But that’s not what happened.
Almost everyone answered yes, or at least had considered suicide as an option, or as a last resort, at some point or another.
I was completely shocked.
And I know this is just an anecdotal report, but it leads me to believe that more people with severe tinnitus have considered suicide than most people realize.
They just aren’t talking about it, and that’s what scares me the most.
It keeps me up at night.
I’ve noticed an uptick in mentions of tinnitus and suicide on social media, too.
But it’s rarely in a helpful, “shed light on the problem” kind of way.
Recently, I’ve seen people in pain, ready to take their own lives, crying out for help. I’ve seen stories of government-approved physician-assisted suicide, and musicians who actually went through with it.
But worst of all, I’ve seen the comments on these posts – the people who nod in silent agreement, suddenly realizing that maybe this is an option for them, too.
I want to be very clear: suicide is never the answer, nor is it an appropriate option for any tinnitus sufferer.
I’ve also seen the community gather together in support, reaching out with love to help those in need. It brings tears to my eyes.
But the unspoken truth is that the way that most people talk about tinnitus and suicide is doing more harm than good.
An inaccurate sense of hopelessness:
When I talk about hope, I mean something very specific.
There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’re simply destined to live a life of pain and misery.
Unfortunately, many tinnitus sufferers aren’t even aware that treatment is possible.
Of course, not all treatments are created equal. Many require discipline and time to see results, while others only offer relief in the moment, never truly addressing the underlying issues.
But the common thread running through the tinnitus community is fear.
The sudden onset of a sudden noise that no one else can hear is terrifying. Most people can handle a temporary problem, but when it doesn’t go away, the fear builds.
Worst of all, many doctors tell their patients that there’s nothing they can do, that they just have to live with it. Not only is this false, but it’s psychologically destructive.
Most people try to ignore the sound of their tinnitus by distracting themselves or drowning it out with background noise, but it never actually changes anything, at least nothing positive. It just fuels the vicious cycle, leaving them more anxious, frustrated, and afraid.
Support groups don’t always help, either. They can sometimes become an echo chamber of bad ideas, amplifying the fear even further.
But the truth remains: treatment is always possible.
The answer may not be in a pill, but there are answers out there. There is always something else you can try. There is always hope.
When your ears are screaming, and you feel like it’s breaking you down, piece by piece, with no end in sight, you have one job and one job only – survive.
In that moment of crisis, it might feel like all hope is lost, that there is nothing you can do, and no point anyways, but you still have a measure of control.
There will always be some action you can take, some tool you can still wield, to help you endure. You may not be able to change the volume, but you can always make yourself more relaxed or more comfortable.
The crisis will end, you just have to get through to the other side. Whatever it takes.
But even when you feel like there are no options left, that suicide is your only way out, you can still talk to someone. And if you don’t have anyone, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline any time, day or night, and someone will be there for you.
US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24/7): 1-800-273-8255
Samaritans UK Suicide Hotline: 1850 60 90 91
Suicide.org International List of Suicide Hotlines
During moments of crisis, you just have to hold on and get through it in one piece.
When it’s over, you can seek treatment, knowledge, and acquire the tools necessary to better endure the next crisis, knowing it won’t be as difficult as the last.
Hope for the future:
I’m optimistic that science will provide a cure for tinnitus at some point in the not too distant future. Incredible research is happening all over the world. But it’s important to understand that there is also hope for today.
There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but we can still get to a comfortable place where it stops bothering us.
The real problem with tinnitus is how we react to the sound emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically. When it’s bothering us, we can’t tune it out or ignore it because it’s impossible to tune out a sound that our brain interprets as something dangerous or threatening.
We’re evolutionarily hardwired to focus in on sounds that imply danger, and you would never want to not hear the sound of something actually dangerous.
Unfortunately, our brains also can’t tell the difference between an imagined threat like tinnitus and real danger. Our fear makes the danger real, whether it’s real or not, so our reaction is the same. We have a stress response, and it never ends because the tinnitus doesn’t just go away.
But we can change the way we react to the sound. It’s the one thing we actually have the power to change, and the very obstacle preventing us from being able to tune it out and find relief.
There are quite a few ways to achieve this. I teach a very specific proactive approach involving tinnitus focused meditation, but it’s by no means the only way.
Despite what your doctor may have told you, there is absolutely something you can do about your tinnitus.
You do not just have to live with it.
It’s difficult to think about all the tinnitus sufferers who decided to end their lives, especially the ones who just didn’t know that there was hope.
Tinnitus is a terrible health condition, worsened by the persistent misinformation and fear, with very little public awareness or sympathy to boot. But it affects literally hundreds of millions of people around the world, or 10-15% of the general population by most estimates.
It’s a big problem, and it needs our attention, now more than ever.
If you’re reading this, and you’ve considered taking your life because of your tinnitus, please hear me when I say that there’s hope. You are not alone, and it’s not the life sentence that it seems.
If you know someone who’s suffering, you can be the one who understands. You can hold them a little a bit tighter, listen a little bit closer, and make sure they feel heard. You can be the one who believes their pain is real, and help them find the strength they need to keep going.
We’re all in this life together, some of us are just stuck with unwanted challenges and limitations. We have to support each other.
And above all else, we must make sure that those of us who are struggling remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.