How She Beat Stress-Induced Tinnitus – Diane Lambert – #18

Pure Tinnitus and Hearing Podcast Ep 18. Learn how Diane Lamber, a Health Coach, beat Stress-Induced Tinnitus.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Pure Tinnitus & Hearing Podcast, episode number 18. Today, we are here with Dianne. Dianne has reached out to me. We had a tinnitus consultation. We became friends and we wanted to share Dianne’s story to potentially help someone else who’s listening or watching.

So Dianne you’ve had tinnitus for six years. Please tell us what you’ve learned over the years and a little bit about your story.

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, so it’s good to talk to you again Ben. Yes, I’ve had tinnitus for almost six years now. It started 2015 in November, and, you know, I was working kind of a stressful job and it was a job I really loved. I’m a health coach. So I was traveling the country, I was giving presentations, working with a local company here in my hometown but I had crazy hours. I was up late doing screenings. I would be up early, just a lot of inconsistency in my life. Wasn’t eating at regular times. Wasn’t exercising at regular times. And I remember having a conversation with one of my coworkers saying, you know, this is getting really hard. I’m not 20 anymore. So keeping the schedule is getting a little stressful.

I don’t know how long I can keep this up. And I probably had that conversation a couple of different times over the year well, probably between 2014 and 2015, you know, and I would just keep pushing through because I really liked my job. I loved what I did. And then after a six day trip out to Michigan and we were doing a lot of screenings, a lot of presentations, I came home and the next morning I had to get up early again for another screening. And I woke up and I had this sort of muffled feeling in my ear and also this noise, kind of ringing, but it was sort of low level. And I thought, oh, that’s kind of odd. I don’t ever remember having sort of muffled hearing before but I kind of shook it off.

Then I went to my screening and I was still kind of, you know, aware of it, but I wasn’t really bothered by it. But after a couple of days, it wouldn’t go away. It was just remaining. And then I started to get concerned. And then after about a week or so of that and just being overworked and overtired, you know, I kind of went from zero to about 60 in terms of anxiousness. I became quite anxious, quite depressed. And to kind of shorten the story a little bit, in about three weeks, I lost about 17 pounds. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t get rid of the noise. It was quite disturbing.

So I had to do something and I went and found help. I went and saw a professional. I went to an ENT, you know, I kind of did the route that probably a lot of your listeners have done or thinking about doing or was told to do, go see an ENT. I saw two of them, you know, put me on steroids, which made me crazy. Had an MRI of my head to make sure it wasn’t I think they called it acoustic neuroma, right? They wanted to rule that out and any other physical cause. And finally, I ended up really, I ended up seeing, you know, a psychiatrist and said, I can’t live like this, I need to do something. And they recommended some medication for a while which kind of brought my anxiety down but I didn’t know any tools at that time. I had no tools. So I found you, thank God.

Dr. Thompson asked Diane how she managed her tinnitus.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Let’s stop for a second, and bring us back into that state when you’re sort of frantic high anxiety looking for help. You are right now, a wellness coach, and you have been for many years. So how would you have counseled yourself as a wellness coach, knowing what you know now about the relationship between tinnitus, anxiety and how that affected you?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I would have counseled myself a lot differently. Well, I think recommending to get some professional help is always a good idea. So in whatever way, that makes sense for the person who’s suffering tinnitus. So whether that’s real, you know, some professional counseling, seeing somebody who’s a specialist in tinnitus or audiology such as yourself, I didn’t know anybody at that time. Also getting online, finding out information, good information, not going onto chat rooms or forums where people are sort of fear-mongering and telling you you’ll never get rid of it or you’ll, you know, it’s going to get worse or any of those negative things I completely did avoid. I did find another person who, you know, Julian Cowan Hill, and I started to teach myself and educate myself about what is tinnitus, right? What are its causes? How do you treat it? Is it treatable? And yes, it is. It is treatable and yes, you can live with it. And yes, it can get a lot better. So I didn’t know that in the beginning, but after educating myself and getting to the right people I learned a lot and my life is extremely happy and much better than I could have ever imagined living with tinnitus.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for sharing that. And you had sought out different professional help, your nose and throat doctor, psychiatrist to manage stress and anxiety, ear, nose, and throat doctor to hopefully rule out a medical structural cause of hearing loss or something of that sort. And then realizing sometimes those professionals don’t want to have extra resources. So then going to a tinnitus specialist and it seems like you also took a more holistic approach of managing stress and anxiety and sleep. Yes?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

I did, so I ended up quitting my job. I mean, I had to. You know, I had sort of a, I don’t know if I can say it as a come to Jesus meetings, between myself. And I said, I just can’t keep doing this. The schedule is not good for me. I’m 61 now. I was 55 at the time. I still have a lot of energy and I had all that energy then but I had to realize that stress is a huge driver of tinnitus as you know, and I had to find ways to really mitigate my stress and do something that was not going to exacerbate my tinnitus. And I also had to try to figure out what other triggers could be driving my tinnitus. So it did take me time but the best thing I did was to quit my job and find something that was more suitable for my age and my lifestyle. You know, that was better for my wellbeing. I did get sound therapy, and I know you’ve talked about sound therapy. I did end up going to a clinic in Arizona at the time because I live in Cleveland and there was nothing here in Cleveland that I knew of. And it just so happened I was going there on vacation and I happened to see that they were opening a new clinic the week I was going there on vacation. So I went, I saw them, they were great. I did get some therapy. I did use the sound generators for almost two years straight. And I would say that helped tremendously, coupled with all the education, all the mitigation strategies, the stress management. You know, you do have to eat well, you have to do everything you can to support your wellbeing and your health, because you can’t do one thing and then leave the rest, you know not untouched if you need to make improvements, so.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

And was your hearing in the normal range, or did you have a degree of hearing loss from a test?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, so that’s a good question too. For my age, they said it was in the normal range. They had said I had a little bit of, they said age-related normal loss, but nothing that required hearing aids at the time. But again, that was, you know, a few years ago, but–

Ben Thompson, AuD.

So you reached out to an audiologist at the clinic and you pursued ear-level sound generators which is typically part of tinnitus retraining therapy. And that means also one-on-one education and one-on-one counseling for an extended period of time. So those sound generators providing constant sound therapy, did that provide immediate relief and long-term? Tell us more about that for those who don’t know.

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, so it did provide immediate relief. It did. There’s something very comforting of having this gentle, and they actually program it to your range of tinnitus. So it’s not just, they’re throwing a sort of a generic sound generator on your ears, and you have to go through a battery of testing so that they can program it accordingly to your tinnitus level. But yeah, it provided immediate relief, and using it definitely unwound my anxiety and I would wear it for about six hours. It took me a little bit of time to adjust to it just, I mean, it’s tiny. So you don’t really feel the wires. They’re tiny little custom wires, but I still knew I had them in my ears. So it took a little time to adjust. But after that, it was fine. And to this day, six years later, if I happen to have a spike, I still use them.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Okay, so you’ve learned that there’s multiple pillars of success here. There’s multiple factors that are used to habituate to get better, to recover from tinnitus. Sound therapy is one of them. What else did you learn was very beneficial for your experience of getting better?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

So, definitely having a regular sleep schedule because when you don’t sleep, everything is worse. And as a health coach, I know that and I work with my clients on having a good sleep hygiene because everything else just falls down. It’s like dominoes, you know, sleep is the top. If you push that domino over, everything else just goes badly. So having a sleep routine, getting up at the same time for sure, exercising, I know you have a meditation practice Ben but I don’t have a specific meditation practice, but I know that every day when I get out in nature and I walk to me, that’s meditative, I feel connected to the planet and that makes me feel better. So I suppose I reap, you know, stress management from that feeling one with the universe. And I also have other things that I do. I have pillow speakers. I keep them under my pillow every night. And I listen to nature sounds, that helps me sleep. I stay hydrated. I make sure that I have good connections with family and good family support. So all these pillars of wellbeing make a difference and they all impact your tinnitus to some degree.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

And when we worked together recently, I wrote down a quote. You said, which was, if the level doesn’t get softer, I can still live with that. Can you talk to us and our listeners about the volume of your tinnitus and if or how that has changed over the six years?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, so, okay. So how do I answer that from the beginning? Because in the beginning I wasn’t habituated. And so to me, the sound was really loud. It seemed really loud because I had nothing else to really compare it to like I do today. And in the beginning, when my nervous system was very riled and amped up, I also had a little bit of hyper acoustics. So I couldn’t take loud noises. They would make me very anxious and I had to wear earplugs a lot going out too. Now that we can go back to restaurants I’m not worried about it. But when we were going to restaurants before the pandemic I would often have earplugs in my ears. And I was always concerned about having earplugs you know, wonder if I went someplace that had loud noise. I don’t worry about that really anymore. So now I would say the volume of my tinnitus is, I guess it’s fairly mild. I wouldn’t say it’s loud, there are times when it spikes to me, it sounds loud or louder. So maybe I rate it on a one to 10 scale. So maybe my baseline’s a two or a three, some days it’s a one, some days I don’t even hear it. And then when it spikes maybe it spikes up to seven or an eight. That’s just my observation on it. And then if it really bothers me I’ll put my sound generators in. But most of the time it lands around, you know, between a one and a three, probably in terms of loudness.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Thanks for sharing that because sometimes people are told, look, that’s forever. Tinnitus is forever. And what’s not explained is that the volume, the perception of the sound does change over time. So if I have a very mild pain in my knee then I’m able to live and I don’t even, I rarely think about it and I can still live a healthy, happy life. But if someone tells me, oh, that knee pain because of a certain condition, it’s not going to go away, they’re not wrong by saying that but the language is a little off. So can you explain to us, I took another quote a note from when we worked together. You said that you understand tinnitus more, and that was a big part of understanding what it is and what it is not. In your mind or in your experience, what were the big lessons of learning what tinnitus is and what it is not understanding it?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Well, I learned you’re not going to die from it, one. And I learned that it’s not necessarily connected to hearing loss so that just because you have tinnitus it doesn’t mean you’re doing to lose your hearing. I mean, there’s normal hearing loss as we age but it’s not a sign that there’s something medically or physically wrong necessarily with your auditory nerves or your whole auditory structures. So that’s comforting to know that. ‘Cause, when you first get tinnitus, you’re wondering, oh my gosh, you know, you can’t, you’re like am I going to lose my hearing? And that’s not really the case probably for most people. So that made me feel better. And just the education in general around tinnitus, what it is, what it isn’t, and it’s not coming from your ears, it’s generated from the brain and that we’re still learning about it. You know, it’s an area of interest for a lot of people who do this research and there’s ongoing research. And I think there’s always, there’s hope for everybody. Nobody’s a lost cause.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Thank you, Dianne. And your work, when you work as a health coach, what kind of ages or demographics do you typically work with? What kind of conditions or common themes do you see as a health wellness coach?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

So I work with probably mostly middle age sector people generally from their mid forties or forties to up to and through their sixties. That’s the most of the age range I do. I mean, I’ll talk to anybody that wants to talk with me but that’s my typical target population. And I think that’s because I like to kid my clients and I say, you know, we have a warranty till about 40 and then that warranty expires. So if you haven’t started taking care care of yourself up until 40, you better start now, because it gets a lot harder if you don’t. Yeah, so mostly I would say the majority of my clients want to talk about weight loss and weight management, that most people struggle with their eating habits along with trying to manage a healthy weight or healthy BMI. So that’s a big, big part of my practice and sleep health and stress management and tobacco cessation or some of the others.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Okay, great. And every day I work with tinnitus patients via telehealth who are working through anxiety or stress or insomnia from your perspective, how do all these systems connect? Irrespective of tinnitus, if someone comes to you and says, I’m having stress I’m feeling anxious, we’re having a hard time sleeping, and it’s been like this for weeks or months, what are your simple go-to fundamentals?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Yeah, and that’s a great question. So the first thing I would ask that client is if they’ve been to a doctor or had a consult or had some kind of physical, just to rule out that there isn’t anything physically wrong or any physical issue causing their sleep issue or their anxiety or if they have some depression because there are physical causes for these things. And if that’s been ruled out, then I would talk to them about probably starting with sleep. Because again, if you don’t have a good sleep hygiene if you have insomnia, if you have things keeping you up, your anxiety and depression are usually exacerbated. You know, they’re usually maybe made worse when you don’t when you can’t sleep on a regular basis. And it’s not missing a couple hours of sleep here and there, that’s not really the issue. It’s the chronic not being able to sleep. It’s the chronic insomnia and sleep issues. So I would start with that. I think one of the go-tos, you know, is trying to unravel what the source is. You know, so if there’s something causing you stress if you have ruminating thoughts at night, you know, what are some of the strategies that you can do to mitigate that, right? So we would talk about that, you know, journaling or even perhaps seeing a professional. So that’s where it started.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Yeah, starting with sleep as the foundation. And do you have a message for someone who may be in the first three months of a sudden onset tinnitus, it seems that you had been through the ringer of sorts in the first few months of your experience. What kind of advice would you have for your younger self?

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

I would say work with you. Find Ben. That’s my first piece of advice, is, you know, don’t find somebody that can help and support you and help you understand that there is help for your tinnitus. There are many, many strategies that you can learn and adapt to that will help your tinnitus. And if you have questions, these are the places to find the answers, is, you know, on your website, your YouTube channel, your podcasts, because you know, as far as knowing what you know about tinnitus, I think that you are, you know, you’re right there at the top of people to go to.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Thank you, yeah. And from hearing, thank you, I’m humbled by that. Thank you from what you said, I also heard that understanding what can be done and that this is not a forever curse, it’s a symptom that can change over time and in empowering the individual to learn what can be done externally, internally to facilitate that change to make it as quick and easy as possible, and yes, professional support is very important, and it is a great tool. And also some individuals are managing this without. So yes, find the right path, definitely know that there is real support out there, whether it’s with me or someone else.

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

Right.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Well, Dianne, thank you for coming on this podcast episode it’s really great to host you and meet you. I want to include your contact info or website which we will include in the description of this on YouTube for anyone interested. And I’ll leave it to you here at podcast episode 18. If you have any final messages for the community here.

Diane Lambert, Health Coach

I would say don’t give up, because there is definitely hope. You can live a full happy life having tinnitus, and there are ways to manage it so that you’re just going back to baseline. You know, you can be the happy person you were beforehand.

Ben Thompson, AuD.

Thank you so much Dianne, and Dianne has agreed to answer any questions in the YouTube comments or put her contact information in the YouTube description. So please reach out and that’s very nice of her. Well, thank you everyone. Again, we make these videos to inspire, motivate and affirm that there is help for tinnitus and there’s a lot we can do. So thank you, everyone. Talk to you soon.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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