Dr. Nagler's Tinnitus Corner
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ThisisMe0508

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 #1 
I have been suffering from tinnitus (start noticing when I'm in a quiet environment). However, after putting on a 3M protection earplugs for 10 minutes while I'm studying at home, I notice that the tinnitus has diminished quite a lot (nearly disappeared), but it reappears after half an hour. May I know if putting on the earplugs for a while will help me get rid of tinnitus as well as improving my hearing? Thank you.
Dr. Nagler

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 #2 
Please clarify. Do you use the 3M earplugs at home while studying because the noise level in your home is incredibly loud or just to shut out normal household sounds so you can better concentrate on your studies?

Thank you.

Stephen M. Nagler, M.D.

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The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
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No bird ever soared in a calm. Adversity is what lifts us.
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ThisisMe0508

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 #3 
I put it on just to shut out normal household sounds (like washing machine) so I can concentrate better.
Dr. Nagler

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 #4 
Got it.

So there are a few things going on here with your original question: "May I know if putting on the earplugs for a while will help me get rid of tinnitus as well as improving my hearing?"

First of all, wearing earplugs to shut out normal household sounds will not improve your hearing. As a matter of fact, there is some good evidence that wearing earplugs to shut out normal household sounds is actually deleterious to your auditory system! The auditory system needs sound. Indeed it thrives on sound. Now for sure excessive noise can damage the auditory system, but normal household sounds are not what one would characterize as excessive noise. A simple rule of thumb for the cutoff as to what would be considered excessive was beautifully captured by Dr. Jack Vernon (1922-2010), who stated that if the sound level in the environment is such that you must raise your own voice in order to be heard by a person standing next to you, then you should either leave or wear earplugs - and that goes for everybody else in the room as well! My suggestion if you find normal household sounds to be distracting would be to consider using Bose noise cancellation headphones while studying and introduce some pleasant soft music via bluetooth or wire. Another reason to avoid excessive use of earplugs is that over-protection predisposes to hyperacusis.

Now, as to your tinnitus seemingly to settling down when you use earplugs to shut out normal household sounds, that phenomenon is not unheard of, but generally it works the other way around: tinnitus tends to sound louder in silence. Possibly what is happening is that you are distracted from your tinnitus while studying, and when you remove the plugs, your tinnitus is temporarily suppressed by the environmental sounds it had been denied by virtue of your wearing earplugs while studying. (Yea, I know it’s a bit of a reach, but whatcha gonna do?) At any rate, my suggestion again would be to strike a happy medium while studying and use noise cancellation headphone with soft non-distracting music added. I think it would be a mistake for you to use earplugs for the purpose of causing your tinnitus to settle down in the short run. And for sure over-protecting your ears in the long run will not help you lastingly get rid of your tinnitus.

Hope this helps more than confuses and frustrates.

Stephen M. Nagler, M.D.


__________________

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
- Mahatma Gandhi

No bird ever soared in a calm. Adversity is what lifts us.
-
David McCullough quoting Wilbur Wright
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