La Technique of Lipreading

And another post by my friend and me from last week.

SayWhatClub

By Michele Linder and Chelle Wyatt

I recently watched American Masters on PBS, Jacques Pépin: The Art of Craft. La Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking was Mr. Pépin’s first book and contained no recipes. While other well-known chefs were introducing people to a world around food and the dishes themselves, Jacques Pépin recognized the value in deconstructing how it was done—the basics of cooking—so that people would feel empowered. It occurred to me that that’s what Chelle and I are trying to do with lipreading—deconstructing how it’s done in order to empower.

Screen Shot 2017-06-07 at 8.14.44 PMMichele: Before delving into the fundamentals and technical aspects of lipreading (Chelle will do that in her next article in the series), it’s important to set the stage for success.

Chelle: There is a mystery surrounding lipreading and there shouldn’t be. Not too long ago that it dawned on me how much…

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Readable Lip Tips

Another post on lipreading, Michele and my collaboration.

SayWhatClub

by Michele Linder & Chelle Wyatt

accessibilityChelle:  This article will not only help those who lipread, but it will help all hard of hearing people and the hearing people who communicate with them. You cannot talk to hard of hearing people the same way you do a hearing person. I realize you talk to more hearing people than you do hard of hearing people so it’s a habit of sorts, however, a few minor adjustments will help the hard of hearing a great deal.

Michele:  Yes, we can all use pointers for better communication. Hearing people have various reactions when encountering someone who is different. Some are uncomfortable because they’re not sure how to accommodate someone with hearing loss to make themselves understood, while others seem to be more intuitive and mindful about what is needed and they accommodate automatically without anyone having to ask or inform.

Chelle:  Even hard…

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Speechreading Basics: Anticipation & Prediction

what's next

This piece on speechreading/lipreading is co-written by me, Chelle, and Michele. Michele has been lipreading most of her life and she’s awesome at it. I’ve been lipreading somewhat half my life and only started taking it seriously the last 3 years or so. Michele tells me she doesn’t know how she does it but I figured I could get her talking more about her life long skill by bringing up certain aspects that I use to teach classes.

This post is about using prediction and anticipation with lipreading skills, it‘s a piece of the pie regarding speechreading but it is helpful to become aware of using this and make certain situations easier. Michele added some great comments about advocating for ourselves from the start.

Chelle: In the speechreading class I have handouts with blocks of words. We take turns saying the words, without voice, with repeats as needed. The students tell me it’s easy to do while in class because the words right in front of them but this can be used in daily life in a number of situations also. Knowing the topic of a conversation will carry a person a long way in speechreading and there are a lot of situations we can anticipate or predict the topic.

Michele: I learned to speech/lipread naturally, without even knowing that I was doing it. By the time I was diagnosed with hearing loss in grade school I was already a speechreading whiz, according to the doctor, which was news to me. Once I knew I was good at speech/lipreading, I still didn’t realize how involved of a skill it was and how much of a role anticipation and prediction played in conjunction with lip movements, facial expression, and body language. All of those things work together and it may seem like a lot of effort, but when it comes naturally at a young age it’s simply a part of how you are hardwired, so I don’t even have to think about it. It’s how I made it through 12 years of public school with a severe hearing loss and no help from anyone but me.

Looking back, I can see all of anticipatory skills I used for success. New situations posed a challenge, but I’d gather information and learn as much as I could ahead of time so that I was prepared and knew what to expect. That gave me a head start and meant I didn’t have to work as hard in the moment. I’ve talked to others who lost their hearing early in life and gradually, and it’s something we all share.

Chelle: The grocery store is one of the easiest places to use prediction and anticipation and focus on lipreading. Different clerks ask the same questions over and over again.

“Did you find everything okay?”

“Do you want paper or plastic?” (for bags)

“Credit or debit?

I can anticipate those questions almost all the time and get by. Later stamps and ice came into play at the grocery store and I was ready for that one too. It’s not asked all the time so I might get tripped up with it from time to time. I’m sure to look up and focus on his/her face for the repeat. “Would you like stamps or ice?” Ice comes up in the summer months and not so much the rest of the year, stamps can be year round.

Another question that blew me out of the water when I moved to the Salt Lake area was “Do you want curbside service?” There’s only one store that does that here and it must have taken five repeats before I understood the girl for the first time. I even threw in I was hard of hearing and couldn’t understand her. When I finally understood the question, my answer was, “You do that here?” I shop often at that store and even though it’s not asked all the time, I now anticipate it when I hear something I don’t understand.

Most grocery store clerks look down when talking or I’m looking down getting into my purse when they start talking. I hear enough to know someone is talking but I can’t understand what they say until I’m looking at them. After I hear a voice, I’ll look up and let that person know I use lipreading. (I never say hard of hearing anymore because they still look down and talk louder which doesn’t help me.) Usually people will make sure to face me after that and we get through it without a struggle. The grocery store is a great place to practice lipreading with anticipation and prediction.

Michele: Yes, the grocery store is pretty easy, however the whole looking down while talking (them), and digging in your cart to unload grocery items or rummaging through your bag for money or credit card (you) means you’re going to miss something that is said to you, so I no longer wait for something to go wrong. I let the cashier know from the get-go that I’m a lipreader and if they are looking down while talking, or if I’m looking away, I’m not going to get what they said. Problem solved before it’s even a problem.

It is a good thing that we can anticipate the routine of a thing, as that is a big help in getting through the check-out smoothly, but we can also hone in on the stumbling blocks in a situation ahead of time and take them out of the mix by informing people of what we need from the very beginning. And, as Chelle stated, some things (regional and other) just can’t be anticipated or prepared for. When it’s a place you frequent you can get “smarter” about out of the ordinary exchanges and get to know people and procedure better, but when you’re traveling or it’s in a situation that you know you’re not going to repeat, it’s a different story.

Chelle: As a side note, let’s hear for the self check out stands! There are times when I’m too tired to focus on speechreading and I just want to get out of there as fast as possible spending little as energy as possible.

Michele: Ditto! It’s great to have the option to self-check if you’re brain is fried and you just can’t talk to one more person that day.

Chelle: Restaurants are feared by many hard of hearing people but not me, I often go alone. When I walk in the door I look for daily specials right away. (That’s having the words right in front of me like in the speechreading class.) The waitress announce the specials but they usually say it so fast it sounds like “yadda-yadda-yadda, yadda” to me. I can’t keep up with their recitation without having read it first on the board. That’s anticipation.

Michele: I have a theory… many things attributed to hearing loss—reluctance to go places alone or eat at a restaurant alone, are really not so much because of your hearing loss as they are to the variety in social “norms”. I know many people who have all of their senses in tact that would never travel alone or eat out alone.

Chelle: Now for using prediction; when the waitress comes to the table, she may or may not say her name (If she does I’ll look for a name tag but I won’t overly stress this bit) . One of the first questions she will ask is “What would you like to drink” taking a note and it will be followed by “I’ll be back to take your order.” Sometimes they will ask me if I’m ready to order too after getting my drink down but not always. Somewhere in here, I’ll let them know I use lipreading and to please face me. These people want a nice tip so they are generally very good about following my request.

Before ordering I read the fine print so I can complete my order with as little questions as possible. Back to anticipation here; what are the side options for a sandwich, and what are the options for my steak, etc. Sometimes I’ll get a salad and salad dressings aren’t always listed. If I have enough energy I go for the basics, either a vinaigrette or the always dependable ranch dressing.

That’s how I get by at restaurants. If they communicated with me properly I’ll leave a generous tip so if they see me again, they will be super accommodating.

Michele: I do many of the things Chelle does—look for the specials board and read the fine print—but I also ask my server if there is a written transcript of specials. If not, I let them know that many people, not just those with hearing loss, would benefit from reading about the specials, as it enhances understanding for all.

And, for someone who has that sixth sense—they are so perceptive that they know you have a hearing loss even before you tell them—I thank them for being perceptive and sensitive, and I give them an especially generous tip.

Chelle: Banks are fairly predictable too. For some reason they often comment on the weather, maybe because they are stuck indoors? It’s easy small talk? They will ask my how I’d like my change back, clarify which account, ask me for my ID as needed. Again, there is an easy out at banks thanks to mobile banking and ATMs. It all depends on my energy level.

As we get to know people, we can apply prediction and anticipation with them too. Everyone has their favorite words and topics to talk about. John talks about politics and Annie talks about her kids and grand kids all the time. Our neighbor will talk about gardening. Nancy talk about work and Bill loves sports. Some people use certain words over and over. This is why lipreading is easier once we get to know someone. If you have some hearing left, it even seems like you hear them easier.

Michele: Yes, as we get to know people better we can often improve our “smarts” here too. However, I’ve met a few people who aren’t predictable at all and their subject list is endless. If I have a hard time following them, I tell them straight out… “You’re going to have to tell me what you’re talking about first so I can put what I see on your lips into context.” This helps, but it’s a continual effort to remind them.

Chelle: The calmer we are, the easier it is to get by in these, and more, situations. We have to learn to relax and that’s no easy task at first. The minute we get tripped up, nothing will go right. I’ve always hated going to eat at Subway for that reason. They are always looking down when they talk because they are gathering ingredients and making the sandwich, even after I’ve told them I lipread. I get so uptight there that more than a few times I asked to “Please just make the sandwich like the picture and I’ll eat it!” Only one time have I had one person point to each ingredient and give time to nod or shake my head. If I frequented the place more often I’d get the hang of it and over come my dislike of the ordering process. I’m not a big sandwich person, however, so that won’t happen anytime soon.

Michele: I have to say that I almost never let something slide these days. When I do, it makes me feel bad about myself. However, if someone else just wants to move on, that’s their prerogative. We are all different and that’s part of what we have to teach the hearing public—one size doesn’t fit all… one accommodation isn’t a solution for everyone. Be very specific in asking for what you need.

Chelle: A few days ago I paid a visit to another fast food place I rarely go. I don’t know drill. The cashier was quiet and I don’t think she enunciated well either because I could only snag a word here and there. (I think she may have been hard of hearing because she missed part of my order, or maybe she got sidetracked by my hearing issues.) She asked a few questions that took multiple repeat and some gesturing before I understood what she wanted to know. There was another question I could not get at all and we both finally gave up. I didn’t have paper and pen and neither did they. Only later did I puzzle out that she was probably asking me what sauce I wanted.

Michele: For this scenario, I’ve started to let people know that they need to give me time to process what they’ve said, as lipreading isn’t like hearing instantly. We often need time to process what someone has said, and so I say that. It really does help, as I found I was often walking away when it dawned on me what the person was trying to say or ask. When you say, “Give me a minute to work out what you said.” you’re telling them exactly what you need.

Chelle: Often my students teach me things; little differences in mouth shapes, they might show me a new app for the phone or a gadget. Last week a new student showed us her Boogie Board. Her daughters bought it for her because she has a severe/profound hearing loss and she was having a hard time with errands. It’s a board to write on and by pushing the button it erases it. It’s like having small chalk board, nothing is recorded or saved. It’s super light weight so easy to carry around. When she has a hard time understanding someone, she whips out that board and gets it in writing. How clever! I love how she does what she has to without fear to help with communication. She swears it’s been a lifesaver. I went out and bought one and I’ll keep it in my purse from now on. Well, after buy a bigger purse because the one I have now is already packed.

Michele: I love it when someone comes up with a new way to facilitate understanding. While ordering food at a restaurant in the airport in Boston, MA the server typed out what I wasn’t understanding on the ‘Notes’ feature of his smart phone. I usually do have a pen and paper with me (I save the note pads from hotel stays and carry them in the outside pocket of my purse), or I’ll sometimes resort to handing someone my phone so they can type it out. Whatever works is the right way to go, and what works for some won’t work for all. Be flexible.

boogie board

I knew this would be a good collaboration! As is often the case, Michele inspires me to do more. Being friends with and hanging out with people who are hard of hearing/deaf offers many opportunities to improve on communication by comparing notes. Does anyone else have anything to add about prediction and anticipation?

Speechreading Tips and Hints

Speechreading Tips & Hints
(also called Lipreading)

I teach speechreading at work and it’s becoming a popular class. The classes become a support group of sorts and we all share any insights we might have about lip shapes. They teach me as much as much as I teach them. I enjoy leading this class and sometimes I talk about it on Facebook. I have lots of hard of hearing friends thanks to attending hearing loss conventions. A number of those friends reply to my posts saying they wished they could take the class so I thought maybe I’d start sharing some of what I do here. I’ll even try adding videos.

You’re going to see me swap out the terms speechreading and lipreading. It’s the same thing but someone thought speechreading was better since it’s not lipreading alone. We rely on facial expressions, body language, gestures and situational cues as an aid to reading lips.

First of all, I am not the best lip reader and my students have witnessed me bomb…which I think actually helps them. It keeps it real, lowering expectations for themselves. It’s not something that just snaps in – it takes time, practice and patience which is why I also try to make the class fun. Having a sense of humor is a great help. So I’m not the best and I’m not the worst either. I fall somewhere in between. The students see my confidence and they know I don’t fear social situations and maybe that’s enough to encourage them.

Without hearing aids or my eyes I have a 30% word discrimination. With hearing aids and no eyes I have a 60% word discrimination. With my eyes and hearing aids I catch about 90% of what’s said. Without hearing aids and my eyes I’d guess I’m somewhere around 70%. Lipreading fills in the gaps hearing aids miss. I still get stuck on words but I have ways around that now too. I use my remaining hearing to aid speechreading, they work together.

My speechreading ability depends on a few things:
~Advocating for my needs and making sure the other person knows I use lipreading. I often tell grocery store clerks, “I hear enough to know you are talking but I use lipreading to hear.”
~Whether or not I’m tired. My brain works lightning fast piecing together what I heard and saw all while using deduction to make sure it fits into a proper sentence/thought. If I’m tired, or sick, it’s hard penetrate the brain fog and I can’t keep up.
~How well I know the person. I have a harder time with new people but as I get used to people I do better and better.
~How long I’m lipreading. After a two hour meeting my brain is fried and then I go into shutdown mode for an hour or so afterward to recuperate.
~Am I relaxed or uptight? The more relaxed I am the better I do. The harder I try, the worse I get.

It also depends on the speaker, here are some examples….
~Do they talk too fast or too slow? Yes there’s such a thing as too slow and I call it monkey lips. That’s when people over exaggerate their words in slow motion.
~Do they have a mustache that covers their lips?
~Do they keep turning their head? Some people habitually turn away while giving me directions.
~Did they get my attention before speaking? If everyone did this, it would cut down on many a repeat.
~Do they have an accent? Accents shape words a little differently. After a while I can get used to that too but it takes more time.

I think all hard of hearing people use lipreading to a degree but taking the class brings it up to the next level. During my first class I encourage the students to start focusing on lips and tell people they are reading lips, even if they are just starting. Get in the habit of it. For practice, watch the news with low volume and try reading reporters lips. Use captions (which are usually slightly behind) to figure it out. Some reporters are going to be easier to understand than others simply because they form their words better than others.  You might surprise yourself with how much you catch.  To prove that point in class, I’ll turn my back and read a paragraph.  How much did they get? Very little.  When I turn back around, they get a lot more.  We are already doing it.

Chelle

Me and my red hearing aid molds.

 

The Difference a Hearing Loop Can Make

I’ve known the Unitarian Church in Salt Lake was one of the few venues looped for at least a year or so now.  I kept meaning to go and test it but just found the time today.  I went to test the loop mainly but I liked the service and people so I’ll go again.

Those two signs together are so welcoming!

It’s nice that they have included those with hearing loss into their congregation.  When the service started I tuned in with my t-coil program.  I heard a bowl struck, a high-pitched ‘ting’, giving me an instant thrill because I could hear it. Next was a piano intro, a beautiful piece and the high notes were richer through the loop.

Next came the choir accompanied by the piano and I was lost.  It sounded good but the piano overshadows words so it’s hard to understand lyrics.   I locked onto certain mouths trying to lipread. I could find words here and there but nothing to make sense of the song.  It was interesting to note that some people really over exaggerate their words/mouth while singing and others stay more more normal.  Hanging notes make it hard to lipread no matter what.

The opening  came next and every word came through the loop and into my ears.  It’s always a thrill for me to go somewhere looped and hear words without having to lipread, without extreme concentration and fatigue.  Word flowed into my ears,  words like chalice which I’ve never heard spoken out loud before.  For the first time today, I learned how to pronounce it properly.  I’ve been saying it in my head wrong all these years!

Then came a hymn. When they announced the hymn number, I had been taking notes so my head was elsewhere.  I stood up with everyone, without taking up the hymn book and tried lipreading again without much luck.

A short, guided mediation came next. For a many, many years I’ve had to keep my eyes open for prayers/meditations to lipread and this time I didn’t have to look understanding every word.  It involved following the breath, big inhales and exhales…right in my ears.  It was like someone blowing in my ear without the physical effect which cracked me up.  Does everyone hear that and I never knew?  It was hard to concentrate at first but soon I was deep breathing too.

More singing and with me realizing although music sounds better, I’ll probably never really pick up on lyrics again.

As they passed the offering bowl around, someone in the pew in front of me tried talking to me, probably wanted to say hi and welcome.  I was in t-coil mode and didn’t know what to expect next in the servcie so I told her I couldn’t hear her and to wait while pointing at my ear.  My hair happened to be pulled up and back so my red ear molds were clearly visible.  She saw them and nodded. Just after that, the minister came to welcome me personally and I had a chance to tell him him how much I appreciated the hearing loop.  He asked how it was working and I said it was great and told him for the first time I could follow a guided meditation without watching him.  He did a little fist pump in the air.  I told him I worked at the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing center and told him I’d be happy to talk more about the loop and give them more information.  He took one of my cards and hopefully we will be in touch.

He went back up front and started to read from a book.  Usually when someone quotes straight from a book I have a hard time following along.  Voices tend to go flat without rhythm and tone but this guy was pretty good.  He read slow enough there were pauses and because he read it so much (he confessed) there was the typical rise and fall of speech.

More singing and this time I noticed the hymn number was on the handout they gave us.  I picked up the hymn book, found the page and tried to follow along…and failed. It didn’t even matter that I had the book and words in front of me.  I lost my place because of the hanging notes.  I put the book down and appreciated the sound of voices and music.  I should note the choir didn’t have a mic so maybe that’s what made it so tough.

The sermon was next which I followed easily still.  I realized I didn’t have the concentration face at all, no furrowed brow and squinty eyes.  No fatigue either. I even picked up on something he said wrong.  He meant to say Facebook but he said Fakebook.  I got to laugh in time with everyone else.  It’s not very often I can tell a c from k sound.

It didn’t last much longer and as soon we were done, I went into the front pew to sit next to the lady who tried to talk to me earlier.  “I didn’t mean to blow you off,” I told her, “I wear hearing aids and I was in my t-coil program so I couldn’t hear you right then.”

“Oh that’s okay’, she said, “I work with a few people who wear hearing aids so as soon as you pointed to your ear I knew.”  (See, gestures even help hearing people.)

So she asked me about the t-coil, I explained the loop and how my hearing aids pick sound up.  Her response was, “I need something like that so I can focus more too.”  Ha ha.

Everyone was invited into another room to mingle and I would have but I was starving!  I only ate an apple before leaving the house.  I started a new diet last Wednesday that doesn’t include, dairy, sugar, and processed food so I didn’t dare go into a room with all that handy while that hungry.  I’ll go again because listening was effortless and hang out afterward, I will make sure I have a better breakfast next time too.

Hearing Aids in the Compost Bucket?

A good friend who wears hearing aids comes by once a month to have me cut his hair.  He takes the same seat at the kitchen table every time to talk first.  We do some catching up on family news and when it’s haircut time he takes his hearing aids out and lays them down on the table.  We move him to the middle of the kitchen and cut his hair.

Ken was in and out, setting up Beatles music because that came up in conversation too.  As talked, he started picking through the African violets on the table, pulling out the dead leaves.  He had a whole pile there on the table offering live leaves to our friend to grow and telling us how well they used to grow in his office. My cat wandered in and out.   It’s almost as much social time as it is haircut time.

When I was done, our friend sat down at the table to put his hearing aids in and no hearing aids, oh crap!  I immediately drop down to the floor to see if they had fallen off the table, instead I found a very hard piece of purple play dough left by my grandson a month ago. (Dang, how did I miss that?)  There were a few extra violet leaves that drifted to the floor too.  We check by the cat food, moved the chair and no hearing aids.  Ken said, “I put them on the napkin so they wouldn’t get lost” but there were obviously not there anymore.  I noticed the proximity of the napkin to the violets and think of the few leaves that fell on the floor. “Where did you put the African violet leaves,” I asked.

“No!  No I wouldn’t do that!  I put them on the napkin to keep them safe.”  Ken knows how much hearing aids cost so he’s panicking.  He started going through the trash and then over to the compost bucket.  Shifting through the leaves and cast off vegetable parts he found one hearing aid, then two.  Hearing aids are light weight and could easily be scooped up with the African violet leaves, feeling no different.

compost

Now, did they work?  We waited as our friend put in his hearing aids.  One hearing aid turned on however the other one didn’t.  There was a few more seconds of panic but it didn’t take long to figure out it was missing the battery.  Why would it be missing its battery Ken wanted to know.  Because that’s how we shut off our hearing aids, open the battery door.  “That’s silly.”  Maybe but that’s how it’s done.  What size was the battery?  Smaller than my hearing aid batteries so we let him go home without knowing if it would work.  I gave him a homemade dehumidifier to take home just in case.  (A small sour cream container with lots of those dry packets that come in clothes and other kinds of packaging.)  This morning I texted him asking him it worked and yes it does, yay!

dehumidifier

homemade dehumidifier

That’s proof how fast hearing aids can disappear.  I hear about kids getting a hold of hearing aids, dogs eating them but never heard another compost bucket story.  I learned a long time ago to always return my hearing aids to their protective box and put the box in the same place, which is in my purse.

I learned the lesson the hard way about 13 or so years ago when cell phones weren’t always compatible with hearing aids. I was in the car, my sister called, I put my hearing aid in my lap as I drove.  I forgot all about it when I checked my mail box and long strip of drive up mail boxes.  I didn’t notice I put away only one hearing aid that night either.  The next day I could only find one hearing aid and later that afternoon finally remembered everything…too late.  It had been run over probably half a dozen time at the mailboxes.  Ouch!  From now on, I’ll have a small container set out for our friend to put his hearing aids in when he comes for haircuts.

 

 

 

10 Things You Can Do for Tinnitus

Tinnitus is on my mind today and that’s because I’m off the grid, in the middle of nowhere at my parents house.  How quiet is it out here?  Many years ago after they finished building their house I came to visit.  We were on the porch, everyone talking and I kept hearing a noise.  It was indescribable and it drove me nuts not knowing what it was. I stopped the conversation finally to ask “What is that?”  And of course everything sounded normal to them so it took a bit to pin down the noise I wanted.  “There!  That noise,” I yelled when I heard it again.  My mom said,  “You mean hummingbirds?”  I was aghast.  I could not believe how loud they were.  At home I couldn’t hear them due to traffic or city noise so I guess I forgot what they sounded like.  


Today it’s early February so isn’t porch time yet. My parents aren’t listening to the radio as they normally would avoiding today’s political environment.  None of us watch TV much either so it’s quiet in the house too. I hear my tinnitus all too well.  My tinnitus sounds like cicadas, crickets and has a high pitched squeal 24 hours a day , 7 days a week.  Luckily I habituated years ago so it’s not driving me crazy but it is noticeable.  


Memories of tinnitus are drifting in and out.  I remember when tinnitus struck back in 1987 and I was told by the ENT to go home and learn to live with it.  He gave me no other suggestions nor information.  I couldn’t sleep and I was a zombie during for days at school.  Every night I laid awake hating the sudden invasion and wished I could just die.  Only with much determination did I make it through that time period and was able to push tinnitus to the side.

I didn’t think too much about my tinnitus for many years, it was there but in the background only.  Then working as a hard of hearing assistant, I was asked to edit a tinnitus presentation into a class.  I spent weeks organizing the information and researching tinnitus on the internet.  I hadn’t heard my tinnitus so well in years! I was so happy when I finished the project.

Once or twice a year I teach the class and it always throws me back to my early days when I suffered from it as I listen to others tell their story.  At least there’s more information available today thanks to the internet than what I had in 1987.  It’s wonderful of the state of Utah to offer this class to help others.  Together we talk about it and I always hope I helped them at least a little bit.  Today I thought I’d write up a list of things to help other people as well.


Tinnitus is most vicious at night because the world is quieter.  All we want is to sleep and it seems impossible with all that racket in our head.  We lay there awake..thinking about it, hating it, crying or pissed off.  It’s at the forefront of our thinking and it’s evil.  

Here’s some things you can do to help you sleep.  The trick is to take your mind away from your tinnitus and place it elsewhere.  If you find yourself focussing on your tinnitus, take the focus away to something else.

  1. Soft noise.  Turn on the fan. Get a fish tank that bubbles. Use soft music or the TV.  There’s small water features you can buy to keep on the nightstand. Get some environmental sounds to listen too. (I use an app on my phone called SleepStream 2 and I love it.  There is a fee.)
  2. Try something visual.  I know some people don’t like lights at night so experiment.  Try fiberoptic lights or something like a projection of the night sky on the ceiling.
  3. Some people claim aromatherapy distracts them from their tinnitus at night.  Find a soothing scent.
  4. Create a regular bed time habit and make it a comfortable routine.  Turn off the TV, read a bit, have a cup of tea.  Create a peaceful atmoshphere with light background noise. 
  5. Find your happy place.  Start creating a visual in your mind of your perfect place. Counting your blessings also works, not matter how small it starts, the list will get bigger.


During the day it’s a little easier to ignore tinnitus but in quiet places or at idle times it can sneak up on you.  Again, every time you catch yourself thinking about your tinnitus take it away to something else.

  1. Mindfulness works.  If you’re dusting furniture and the ringing is driving you nuts, focus instead on the dusting-the motion your hand makes, the smell of the furniture polish, the trails you make in the dust as you go.  
  2. Keep light noise in the background.  Don’t make it too loud because sometimes loud noise can make tinnitus work.  Use the radio, some music, the TV.
  3. Some people started a new hobby when tinnitus struck.  I remember a story of guy who took up running to ‘run away’ from his tinnitus.  He used it to work through his tinnitus and enjoyed it so much he became a marathon runner.  Have you always wanted to paint?  Take and art class.  Take a dance class or start attending a climbing gym.  Having something new to do will give you a new focus.
  4. Many hearing aids have a tinnitus program option.  Whenit’s quiet at the office, I’ll turn on my tinnitus program and I hear crashing waves in the background.  If someone comes in and starts talking to me, the waves fade away and I still hear environmental noise.
  5. Here’s your excuse to go get a message.  Tense shoulders leads to a tense neck and even a tight scalp.  It could be making your tinnitus worse.  It won’t take away your tinnitus but maybe you’ll feel more relaxed and able to deal with the tinnitus better.

These are practical tips.  I don’t know much about alternative therapies so I won’t get into that.  The American Tinnits Association (ATA) which talks about those therapies and you can explore them on your own.  The ATA has tons of good information on tinnitus and you can read the latest updates on studies too.

Some people have tinnitus triggers and spikes.  Mine is a lack of sleep and it will make my tinnitus scream!  I warn people it will be a bad hearing day on those days.  For other people it’s loud noises, over the counter meds, diet (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, salt) or smoking.  None of those things affect me but lack of sleep will.  It’s different for everyone.  

If you’re feeling suicidal because of tinnitus, please reach out for help.  I know someone who was and sought help and successfully habituated tinnitus.  You can move beyond it!