tinnitus and suicide - shining light into the darkness

Tinnitus and Suicide: Shining Light into the Darkness

Glenn Inspirational, Raising Awareness 34 Comments

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.

Bad influence:

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.

Crisis management:

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.

(There are quite a few things you can do to help you get through a terrible tinnitus spike.)

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.

Conclusion:

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.

Comments 34

  1. I have had tinnitus for 5 years and it’s progressively gotten to the point of being a shrill high pitched whistle in both ears. My MD. And ENT. Both told me basically to go home and learn to live with it. When I’m stressed it will go completely out of control so loud I can’t hear anything but the non existent noise. And i usually end up with a migraine to top it off.These are the times I have felt the pull to end it once and for all.
    I some how manage to push past those dark feelings, but since having tinnitus i suffer from depression and anxiety as well. The 3 combined make for one deadly cocktail.
    Thank you for your article, I sincerely do hope that help is out there and a cure is found.

    1. I have had it for 15 years, not sure how much longer I can cope with this..the noise, depression,hopelessness. it’s very difficult to hear people voices and i get mocked because I don’t hear what they say..if only they knew how close I am to ending it so i can finally have silence they wouldn’t push me…

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        1. Thank you for the positive thoughts sometimes its so hard to accept the fact this will be here in my head every waking minute!!

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            Tom, you certainly do not have to accept that fact. There may not be a cure for tinnitus but you CAN get to a place where it stops bothering you, and when it stops bothering you, you can tune it out. It doesn’t go away per-say, but it stops affecting you, and most of the time it just fades into the background. If hearing loss is an issue for you as well, I encourage you to watch this webinar presentation I gave on behalf of the hearing loss association of America – other than my book, it’s probably the most comprehensive piece I’ve done about finding relief from tinnitus: https://www.rewiringtinnitus.com/tinnitus-hlaa-webinar-replay/

      2. Tom,

        I too deal with Tinnitus but have found much relief with a medical device called Neuronomics. Drop me a note if you want to chat about it.

        Best,

        Scott

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  2. Thank you. Please be aware that of 28 health, safety and environment statutes enacted between 1958 and 1985, one was defunded. I believe the person who defunded it, did do because he did not think that people could develop the same level of understanding and technogical control of sound as we have with other natural natural forces. His name was Ronald Reagan. He had tinnitus since a gun was fired too close to his head during the filming of a wild west Western (Western lawlessness is a great analogy to what goes on with concerts, hand air dryers, and beeping of appliances in restaurants). He also had the best hearing aids our world could offer the entire 8 years he was President. Meanwhile, powerless and poor fans get no compensate, and Justin Bieber even mooned a reporter when asked how he felt about the dropping of a hearing loss and tinnitus lawsuit against him. Like with most victims of sudden hearing loss, the claimant had insufficient funds to continue paying legal fees. Last things I must say: 1) Xlerator company will retrofit any hand air dryer with a quieting nozzles for free if asked. They are not legally mandated to voluntarily install them in units unless the client requests it. 2) Nail techs must be licensed to know how to infection and injury in customers. Sound technicians and engineers should be legally mandated to be licensed. Music business programs at universities and vocational schools should be mandated by federal law to teach the science of hearing and the math of decibels.

  3. Please dont take your lives away…speak to your loved ones for help. My wife committed suicide because of T and H and my children and I are devastated. Hope this sad story help people to find strength.

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  4. Reading some of the comments on here make me feel really lucky
    I have had tinnitus since I was 6 years old I m now 50. But I m different, I woke from acoma with it and with no memory of life before. I have never know life without tinnitus. It does get to me sometimes, when it spikes it get so load it physically hurts. I also self taught my to lip read because sometimes to much background just becomes noise and can’t hear people speak.
    I have spend my life just drowning it out, but as Glen says it not dealing with it just biuring it

    I never have had thoughts of end it all but I do get frustrated from time to time.

    Like I said I guess I m one of the lucky ones

  5. Is this forum still active? Current tinnitus sufferer and i can’t sleep and feel like I’m loosing my mind. Doctors are trying steroids but I haven’t had relief. I just want to cry and cry. I want peace.

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      1. Whit is not alone.. I went to a gig December 2nd that has created this issue for me. I knew it was too loud at the time but was not in the best position to leave. I wish so much that i had now of course regardless.

    2. Ive had it for nearly four months and has nearly debilitated me, turned my life in absolute misery. It was a side effect of a medication which I hoped it woud go away…how can someone habituate to this kind of permanent high pitched sound? Help Needed urgently

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        Hi Leonidas, I’m so sorry to hear how much you are suffering with this, but there really is hope. Send me an email with more information about your situation to glenn@rewiringtinnitus.com and I will send you some advice and tips to help you get started with habituation!

  6. It is only fair that suicide is a solution to tinnitus. I am so sick of doctors and others telling us that we need to live with this. They should live with it for a while. We should not have to live with something that is so impossible. We each have the responsibility for our own lives and we have the right to not suffer.

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      Hi Kristin, I understand what you are saying, but the doctors who are telling you that there is nothing you can do, that you just have to live with it are entirely wrong. And they just don’t understand tinnitus or the treatment options/ habituation strategies well enough to realize how destructive a statement like that is to someone who is suffering.

      But there is absolutely hope. Habituation and lasting relief from tinnitus are entirely possible. I’ve personally habituated to severe tinnitus (as a result of Meniere’s disease) and have personally witnessed to many other people habituate and find relief from absolutely life destroying levels of tinnitus to ever believe otherwise.

      Hang in there! Because there IS something that you can do about your tinnitus!

  7. So grateful for you Glenn. I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma on New Year’s Eve. I have hearing loss, and bad tinnitus in one ear. Feeling very lonely and sad. My wife sent me this link. It definitely helped. Thanks for all the posts. I will work to continue to find help!

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      Hi George, I appreciate your kind words and I’m glad you’ve found my work helpful! I wish you the best of luck with both your tinnitus and acoustic neuroma. And if you ever have questions or need additional support, shoot me an email at glenn@rewiringtinnitus.com – I’m always around and happy to help however I can!

  8. Sorry, this article was completely unhelpful and it only confirms that suicide IS the only way out. You start by building false hope and even use the word “treatment” just to admit “there’s no hope or treatment, but hey no matter how bad it gets you’ll get used to it”. Which in no way is different from what doctors and everyone else says and is simply not true. Just because someone can tolerate it doesn’t mean that others will. It is slow and painful spiral to death.

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      HI DP, I’m so sorry you are suffering with this, but I don’t think you understood what I was trying to say. There isn’t a cure, but there are treatments and strategies for complete relief. What I’m talking about is working toward habituation, and not simply “getting used to it”.

      This involves proactively working to break the negative conditioning with the sound so your brain can process it like it does all other meaningless sounds – and tune it out of your conscious awareness. This can be achieved through concentrated effort. If you read through my site, you will see that I teach a very specific strategy to achieve this result involving tinnitus focused meditation techniques, anxiety/stress relieving exercises, and a lot of other techniques as well.

      I never said there is no hope or treatments. I truly believe there is hope for all tinnitus sufferers through habituation. I’ve been through it myself, and I’ve personally witnessed too many people recover from life ruining levels of tinnitus to ever believe otherwise. I know people commit suicide over this, but I’ve also watched people who were suicidal because of tinnitus find relief and get back to living their lives.

      If you want to learn more or want more specific, actionable things you can try, send me an email to glenn@rewiringtinnitus.com with more information about what you’re going through! There really is hope and I’m happy to answer questions and offer support!

  9. I’ve had this for twenty years, I have thought of suicide every morning I wake up…some how everyday I find a reason not too..im not spiritual so I don’t ask God for help..suicide will end my pain but it will bring it to my children , grandkids and my other loved ones. The only other thing that annoys me is when someone’s says Damn your deaf..i would rather hear nothing than this awefull ringing..hang in there…

  10. No idea if this will get a reply or if any of these comments are still read etc. but I have had an ear infection for the past four weeks and tinnitus for the last four weeks (minus a day or two) I had an ear cleaning today by an ENT doctor and was told that the ringing should start to go in a few weeks and if it doesn’t yes the dreaded S word is becoming an easier option. I’m not religious in any way so don’t think a great beyond is waiting for me but the fear of spending the next forty possibly fifty years of my life with a constant high pitched ringing sound in my left ear isn’t one that I want or look forward to experiencing. I’m have spent the last four weeks living in a state of pain and hatred, ignored by those around me who give me the standard “There are thousands of people who live with it so so can you”, the noise goes UP in volume then back to a soft pitched. I’m hoping praying that this does go like the ENT Doc thinks it will because if it doesn’t then I’m faced with either a very bleak life or a very short life.

    I don’t know how many more days I can deal with and the fact that I lost my seventeen year old dog Midnight (her name) less than two weeks ago I’m starting to lose my mind. Please god make the noise stop I cannot cope with this for much longer. I know people say it isn’t the answer but right now it seems like the option that makes most sense, I’m holding on for another four weeks to try and hope the noise goes down or goes completely because it was an ear infection and I had no other hearing issues or tinnitus before hand but if it doesn’t go then I’m not sure what I’ll do.

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      Danny, I’m so sorry to hear how much this is affecting you! But you are not alone and there really is so much hope for lasting relief, even if it doesn’t calm back down on its own.

      You can proactively work to habituate and find lasting relief and comfort. It’s not just about living with it.

      Send me an email at glenn@rewiringtinnitus.com with more information about your situation and I’ll respond with some specific recommendations/advice and help get you started on the path to habituation!

    2. What I find unacceptable here is the author of this article says there’s answers but you have to contact him for the answers. Is this about making money off of the backs of people that suffer? I don’t feel like telling my history with tinnitus at the moment but I will say I had a extremely severe case of tinnitus and found the answer. It’s a fact that most people with tinnitus have some sort of hearing loss. That was my case. My wife had told me for months that the people at the Mayo clinic could help me. I finally reached the breaking point, desperate for relief. Even though my hearing was only a little impaired I allowed them to fit me with hearing aides… That’s the answer and I swear by it. When I remove the hearing aides my tinnitus starts right back up. It’s amazing… If your desperate as I was you will see an audiologist and get fitted

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        Hi Bart, I’m very sorry that this is the take away you got from my article. I link to several posts in the article that discuss my habituation strategies, and have many other articles and videos here on the blog that discuss my strategies at great length. (I have articles discussing hearing aids as well!) You certainly do not have to contact me to learn more, or even purchase my book. All of my strategies are freely available here on the website, with many free tools to help as well! Keep in mind though, hearing aids will only help tinnitus patients where the tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, and even then, it doesn’t help everyone to the degree they might hope it will. I always recommend hearing aids as a treatment to patients who do have hearing loss though.

  11. I am here because I was disturbed and conflicted by the remake of A Star Is Born. We don’t need depictions of folks with tinnitus killing themselves. Sure the character in the film had many other problems, but some of those may have been related to the earlier tinnitus. I contracted tinnitus within the last ten years, in my late ’60’s. I am a musician, but playing music is a time when I don’t hear the sounds in my head! I also find distractions such as listening to news radio helpful. Someone elsewhere jokingly said that the BBC is best! You can go to sleep listening to it.

  12. I have recently suffered from a sudden hearing loss in my left ear (already have a moderate hearing loss in my right) for no apparent reason, which has also left me with the worst tinnitus imaginable! The noises are so loud and keep changing, plus I also appear to have the rare condition of ‘musical hallucinations’ which is driving me to despair 😩. My ENT specialist told me, when I broke down in tears in his surgery, after telling him that no way could I live like this, ‘oh you’ll get used it and it’ll settle down after a while’ he was damn lucky I didn’t thump him! 🤬 So I have to wear hearing aids in both ears and I cannot bear wearing them as they irritate my ears. But the tinnitus I just cannot live with and all I can think of is how can I end it all? As I can’t and won’t live the rest of my days in this hell!

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      Lynne, I know how devastating it is to be suffering this much, especially with hearing loss which makes it difficult or impossible to drown it out with background noise. But there really is hope! There isn’t a cure but you can get to a place where it stops bothering you entirely.. Check out this post I recently wrote for healthy hearing: https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52940-Tinnitus-habituation-how-to-tune-out-the-ringing-in-your-ears

      Also, please know that you can email me directly at glenn@rewiringtinnitus.com – if you send me more info about your situation, I can send you more specific tips and advice!

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      Hi David, not right now unfortunately. It’s something I need to do though and have thought a lot for a long time. So at some point there will be an audio book, but not yet. Sorry!

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