Stress: The Hidden Cause of Tinnitus? – Richard – #04

Richard
Well, I think it’s important not to give up hope, not to let the tinnitus overwhelm you, it can do that if you if it’s really bad. But I think you’ve got to have hope, and start a journey of research and start to find some answers. And I think I think what would be very good, which was very helpful for me, was to get involved in a support group.

Ben Thompson, AuD
So we’re here with Richard. Richard is from South Australia. Richard explains how he developed tinnitus from a very stressful period in his life, where he lost his wife, he lost his partner, and that experience caused of a lot of physical stress on the body and mind. Richard, would you be able to explain what your what your tinnitus level was before this period of intense stress happened, and how that really started to progress over time?

Dr. Thompson interviews Richard about his stress-induced tinnitus.

Richard
Well, before we had the situation, I didn’t suffer any tinnitus. They are starting to start at the very low like it’s sad to hear this noise. I didn’t know what it was, I thought it was electric and electronic noise of some kind, sort of might have been your TV or something. And then it just got worse. Basically, as we went through the situation, I think, eventually I would have said that was probably six, eight, about six out of 10, I reckon was where I was sitting in terms of the level that I was suffering.

Ben Thompson, AuD
So that how quickly did it take for you to go from not perceiving any tinnitus at all to six out of 10 loudness?

Richard
Outside of 12 months.

Ben Thompson, AuD
And what was going on inside inside your mind and in your body during that 12 months?

Richard
Well, there was a lot of intense It was a very intense situation, because I was taking my wife to numerous treatment sessions. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy it was every day, and he was always watching, you’re just getting worse and worse, and it was terribly stressful. And we came into the caring phase where I looked after and cared for him myself. And it was very, very difficult and got worse. So I was just purely my response to that. And the stress levels suffer as well.

Ben Thompson, AuD
And for those who are listening, we may have heard before that tinnitus can be linked to stress. And when did you first research or learn about this relationship between stress and ringing in the ears?

Richard
Well, the first thing, if I might say is I did seek some help from doctors. Because obviously, what do I do? So I went to the GP, originally, and he didn’t give me any help at all. He basically said, You’ve got to put up with this. There’s nothing you can do about it. It might go away. That was his answer. After that, I had gone to an audiology practice, and went through all the testing. And they checked my hearing and told me my hearing was very good for my age, the same response, there’s no treatment for tinnitus, we can’t help you. I went to an ear, nose and throat specialist after that. And he said the same thing. You’ve just got to put up with it.

Ben Thompson, AuD
You shared how you saw multiple doctors, you ruled out any medical treatable, cause there’s no, there’s no brain tumor, there’s no there’s nothing wrong, nothing immediately wrong with your ears. There’s no major hearing loss. So how did that sit with you? What what were what were they recommending your doctors recommending as the next steps? And then how did you basically end up learning about this yourself after that?

Richard
So basically, when I received those responses, I was rather dismayed because I thought, here’s the medical profession telling me I’ve got to put up with this for the rest of my life. And it was pretty bad. So I thought, I can’t accept that that is correct. And there must be an answer somewhere. So I started to research basically through the internet to find options and answers and what could be done. So I did learn a few things and eventually, of course, I came to your website and joined into the group sessions, which I think you’ll probably want to discuss a bit later. So I found that I sort of found a few things that I shouldn’t be doing. I had a basic a number of resources, including some books, I was reading on health issues. So I tried to implement some of those strategies to try and see what would happen if I did that.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Yeah, you went on the internet, you found different providers, and eventually we work together. But I want to focus this interview about your story so that it can help others who may have also developed tinnitus related to stress. Um, so knowing you, I learned that you made some changes to your lifestyle, your diet, which affected your energy levels, and your overall wellness and nutrition and health. When what point on your journey did that become relevant? And did you experiment with that?

Richard
I would say probably about, about 12 months ago, I started to implement some changes in my life. And I came to the point where I thought, from what I’ve learned, I came to the point that I thought this was not a one wire fix, it was a multiple way of trying to find a relief. And so I tried to take a holistic approach to dealing with the whole issue, though, so that what I did the immediate thing that I needed to do, because I was suffering fairly badly, I tried to find some masking therapies just to try and give me a little bit of temporary relief to get to sleep, that kind of thing. And then I looked at my diet, and I decided that, from what I’d learned, it would be a good idea to not to get rid of sugar. So I’ve tried to get rid of sugar out of my diet, obviously, it’s in some foods you buy, but I tend not to buy processed foods anyway. So I tried to get rid of sugar, I tried to reduce coffee, I got that right down, maybe one a cup, sometimes two cups a day. And I tried to reduce carbs. So I did that as you know. And then the other thing I did, I introduced much more plant based food in my diet and red meat, I would very rarely eat. I mean, I might eat a little bit, but not a lot, not a lot. Nothing like I was a I mean, when I was I was quite big at that time. Previously, I would have I have sat down. And don’t i don’t know if you american people would do this, but I sat down. And I have eaten a 500 brain steak before. But now if I have a state that all might be 100 grams, and that would be it. So I have very little red meat. Also, I got involved with exercise programs, like daily exercise, and then a bit of walking. And then I had got on an activity or getting involved in which is, which is a sport, a bit of a sport that I do, which also involves a lot of walking. So that’s been quite helpful. And I found that by doing that I did find some some things change. I also reduced alcohol intake as well. So that was the dietary side. Apart from that, I tried some other things. I tried craniosacral therapy, I did that for a few times. Through my physio, I found that was helpful. That sort of relaxed me. I can’t really attribute necessary necessarily that that was a big factor, but it was helpful. And then at the moment I do body scans. I do I go to yoga classes, not not a lot, but I try and go to yoga classes. I have started the mind meditation, particularly when I came to your site, and I learned how to do that that’s been very helpful. I’ve used white noise to help me at times if I need it, I don’t use it much. But sometimes if it picks up a bit, I might do that. And I found that keeping busy is helpful because it distracts you from the sounds that might be happening at the time. And so I’m trying to do things and be active in my life. And I found that by doing all that the level of materials is dropped down significantly. I think it’s significantly if I if you asked me what is my default level, I’d say it’s about three, but then I have times when it might only be one. So it’s it’s reduced significantly, certainly to the point where my life is my lifestyle and my life is manageable, and I’m coping with it and I’m basically living a normal life.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Fantastic. It sounds like the definition of individuation that we would hope our patients or clients in general, or anyone with tinnitus can eventually get to and from what you’re sharing, you use a holistic approach focusing on your overall wellness, your the health of your mind, the health of your body of your nutrition, your the health of your stomach, what we’re eating. And within a year period, you reduced that high alert stress response from the body and returned close back to normal back to where it was. So question question, I mean, first of all, congratulations. And I’m really happy we could connect so that we can share this story to other individuals with tinnitus and to other doctors and audiologists about how there are there are various ways to proceed with tinnitus care, it doesn’t have to be the medical model only, or an alternative model only. It has to be something that feels right for the individual. And what we know is that when we focus on on the the psychology and getting out of the mind into the physical body, as well as using sound therapy, or like you said, different forms of some call it masking, others call it soothing sounds, all of those together over time can lead towards habituation. So yeah, just again, to say congratulations, and how much work did it take? How much? How hard was this for you? Because from what you’ve told me previously, this was a pretty major lifestyle change for you, you were trying and having to be consistent with a lot of new changes to your diet to your, to your to what you were doing your activities. So how hard was this for you to implement long term?

Richard
Well, it was quite, it was quite a challenge. And no to change. my diet, I suppose in previously would have been more of a Western diet, I guess you could say, I was never big on junk food. So I never really ate that. But I think I ate too much. Certainly, I ate too much in the way of carbs. And so it was a big change to try and face that, especially on my own because I have to do all my own food preparation. But I just wanted to take up the challenge. It was it was difficult. But nevertheless, I’m basically accustomed to that now. And I’m, I’m very conscious of what I eat. When I go in the supermarket and I purchase my food for the week, I look at what’s on the back of the label and what the sugar level is and what the carb level is and all the rest of it. So I’m very careful what I buy. And it doesn’t mean that I’m perfectly my diet, but I’m a lot better than ever was. I’ve lost a lot of weight. Since I did that I’ve probably lost at least 20 kilos. So that’s been helpful, too. It’s made me feel happy. It feels feel fitter. The exercise has made me much more mobile, and, you know, capable of doing a lot of things. I mean, a month not a young man, as you can probably see looking at me. But I feel I’m fitter now than I was 10 years ago. And I think that’s a fair comment. So yes, it’s been It has been a tough journey. But you just got to do it. That’s what I felt. If you want to result you’ve got to, you got to make the time and you’ve got to make the effort to get there. So yeah,

Ben Thompson, AuD
thank you for sharing. This is an amazing story now, from what you learned online? Why did you decide to go with this holistic approach versus some other recommendations you’ve seen perhaps? Or what? What gave you the confidence? or What did you What did you view? What videos Did you see? or What did you read that pushed you forward in this healthy way? Instead of being distracted by waiting for the cure or following the research really closely about pharmaceutical research projects? How did you approach this because there’s a sea of information. And sometimes it’s hard for us to be focused on the simple, effective long term strategies.

Richard
Okay, well, I think first of all, I’m, I’ve never been somebody that big on drugs, or pharmaceutical drugs. I’ve always felt that there is alternatives to that. And there are natural ways of finding answers. And so it’s just a matter of making the effort to try research to see what is available and then to implement that. In terms of diet, when my wife wasn’t well, I read a lot of books regarding diet because that is something that is relevant to people who are suffering from cancer, and in some cases, if, if it’s early stages, you can have better results if you’ve got your diet, right, and you know, you’re not eating the wrong foods. So I got to learn a fair bit about about diet and I was sort of got basically pushed along the way of increasing plant based foods rather than a lot of carbon Carbo foods, which are bio processed food. So I felt that was a healthier way to go. And my my view was that if I’m at least having my diet, right, and I’m feeling healthy, it’s gonna be a plus, in relation to anything else that might happen in terms of getting some answers from materials.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Thank you, that makes a lot of sense. And from what I’ve seen in various individuals, the tinnitus is a health ometer are a sign from our body that something’s off. And the topic of this conversation has been stress or something external, really putting our body into high alert into a very stressful period of time. So that health ometer is giving the signal to our brain, something’s off here. And then we’re invited to recalibrate or make changes take action to make changes to come back to our homeostasis or back to our center. And then for in for your stories like yourself, where you take that, that signal that something’s off, and not only do you get back to where it was before, in terms of your overall health and your stress level, but you actually make more progress. So that like, your field, in terms of your diet, nutrition, and overall wellness, you’re feeling better now than you did 10 years ago. So that’s really fascinating. Do you have any comments on that?

Richard
Well, just that I really enjoy feeling a lot better, for obvious reasons. And particularly as I’m getting older, I don’t want to become I don’t particularly want to become ill due to not in not having a good diet. I mean, I think there’s things you can do to try and avoid getting things I know we can’t, we don’t know our journey going forward, but in our own our own strength or the things that we do, we can be a bit more careful. In other words, don’t bring something on by being foolish in what you do, basically. Yeah. As a result of bad diets, and you know, the Western diet is probably one of the worst. Yeah.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Thank you for sharing that. And just as a recap, what is your hearing level masked? Or do you have a normal hearing test or a degree of hearing loss? What was that test result? When you did it?

Richard
The audiogram, you’d be speaking about?

Ben Thompson, AuD
Correct? Yes, the audiogram: the hearing test result?

Richard
I see what they said to me was you’ve got normal hearing right up to the end of the chart, which I think’s got to do with a various particular kind of sound, where it seems to have dropped off a bit, but they said that’s very, very good. You know, Sonia, be very, that’s quite a good result for someone your age. So you want to see the chart.

Ben Thompson, AuD
It sounds like you’re describing you have overall normal hearing for most of the pitches, but in the highest pitch tones, the highest frequencies, it’s a milder form of hearing loss. And that is the most common expression of someone who maybe sees me or sees an audiologist or a new diagnosis of tinnitus. They overall have good hearing, but their hearing system isn’t textbook perfect. And because of that, they likely had some lingering some tinnitus or some neurological a door open for tinnitus to come through. And then when other factors like feeling anxiety, feeling stress, going through a hard period of life can come into our nervous system into our body and into our emotional brain, then that can make that tinnitus which was previously so small, you weren’t thinking about it, you can ramp it up completely. So that hearing test result is pretty consistent with your story and with most what a lot of others are reporting as well. Yeah. Okay. And what would you What advice would you have for someone who has had tinnitus for three months? They’ve had stress in their lives. I mean, right now we are recording this during Coronavirus COVID-19, where there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of fear through the media, there’s a lot of internal challenges we’re all facing in these unprecedented times. So I think for a lot of people, this is one of the most stressful periods of their life. What advice would you have to your former self? Maybe when you’re three months into this challenging, stressful time in your life?

Richard
Well, I think it’s important not to give up hope. Not to let the tinnitus overwhelm you, it can do that if you if it’s really bad. But I think you’ve got to have hope, and start a journey of research and start to find some answers. And I think I think what is also would be very good, nothing is proven very helpful for me. And that is to get involved in in a support group, like yours, for example. And that I found that very valuable. hearing the stories and the journeys of others, and hearing some of the things I’ve gone through and some of the strategies that they’ve employed. And knowing that the supports there if you need it, if things get really bad, and you don’t feel like you’re on your own, I think the worst thing is, if you’re going to face this on your own, and it can get so terrible, what do you do about it. So I think the support that you need, is worth having, and I’d recommend anybody that’s facing this particularly early in their journey, now’s the time to start to research and try and hook into a support group somewhere that’s going to help you and you’ve got people to talk to and share with.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Thank you. Thank you so much. And for anyone who’s listening, leave a comment below. If you’re looking for a support group, I’ll try to answer any comments or if you want to email or contact me, you can go to pure tinnitus calm. We have the group coaching program. That’s how Richard and I got acquainted. I don’t want this, this podcast episode to be about my specific program that we’ve created and how I met Richard, but really to showcase to others about the possibility of a holistic approach, where we’re focusing on our overall wellness, and how that can have an indirect healthy long term effects on habituation. So yeah, Richard, your story is really powerful, and I’m so happy to showcase it to anyone who’s listening. This is a podcast episode number four, in the pure tinnitus podcast series. So make sure you check out the other episodes as well, where we talk to different doctors, and different professionals. And then some individuals who have gone through their journey about what’s the most important things to learn about tinnitus. Richard, I want to ask you a question which I try to ask all my guests. And feel free to take a moment and think about this. I didn’t prepare you on this. It’s a very simple question of in these recent times, or your life, what is your favorite sound? What kind of sound whether it’s in nature, or something that’s manmade or certain music? What is your favorite sound, something that relaxes you and makes you feel really alive?

Richard
Well, one of my favorite, there’s two of my favorite sounds, but one of them is the waves of the ocean, which I really love. It’s very relaxing. And actually, when I go to sleep, I have that on and it just helps me go to sleep. You know, just listen to the waves. And the other the other side, I really enjoy the sound of birds. So, and when it comes to music, I’m a bit of a smooth jazz man. So I like that sort of music as well. So they’re my three favorite things. If that’s any help.

Ben Thompson, AuD
Fantastic answer. Thank you so much, Richard, it was a pleasure to host you. And for anyone still listening, make sure you check out the next episode of the pure genius podcast series. And you can go to our website, PureTinnitus.com for more resources. For anyone who’s watching this, who maybe has tinnitus related to stress. It can feel overwhelming at the beginning about how you tackle this, how you move forward, but really just focused on this next day, this next week, and what feels right in your body what feels right to move forward with your tinnitus.

If you have any questions, I’ll try my best to answer them. Thank you guys so much.

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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