When you have disruptive tinnitus, the added stress from traveling can make it worse.
Traveling by air, land, or sea can aggravate symptoms of tinnitus. Whether it’s jet lag, various airplane engine sounds, airplane cabin pressure, or unhealthy food and drink options (over salty snacks, sugary drinks, or alcohol), tinnitus might be an extra thing that you need to worry about.
You can plan ahead of time and avoid the most common problems with tinnitus when traveling.
10 Tips for Traveling with Tinnitus
1. Make sure you have a plan to help you manage tinnitus symptoms.
Problems that may arise while traveling can cause stress, which can lead to distracting episodes of tinnitus. That can ruin your vacation or business trip.
Planning for these scenarios can help. Worsening tinnitus - whether it becomes louder, becomes more intense, or creates an emotional reaction - can occur for a number of reasons. Sometimes tinnitus spikes can be identified easily, other times it can be too vague to pinpoint. Tinnitus spikes are some of the more problematic scenarios that just about everyone with tinnitus suffers from each day.
What are tinnitus spikes?
This occurs when the ringing sound abruptly changes or worsens.
Causes of tinnitus spikes can include:
It can feel almost impossible to fight against an emotional reaction that is caused by a very bad case of tinnitus. Your anxiety and fear can set in, making the way you usually manage symptoms ineffective.
Understand what triggers your tinnitus, and then immediately implement a coping mechanism if the symptoms arise while traveling. You can ask for help from fellow traveling companions so they can help you reduce the spikes as soon as possible.
Even though you cannot turn down the volume of the tinnitus spike, you can calm yourself down by getting as comfortable as possible. If you wear hearing aids, you can ask your hearing instrument specialist to program your devices to mask the noise. Or, you can even listen to a meditation. Sooner or later the spike will pass.
2. Reduce the impact of jet lag
Jet lag eventually goes away, but it can still create stress for a few days. Your body has a circadian rhythm, which adapts to a day to night cycle. So if travel from one time zone to another, your circadian rhythm is still following the previous time zone. This leads to temporary insomnia, fatigue, difficulty with concentration, changes in mood, stomach problems, and a general feeling of ailment. Symptoms of jet lag can worsen tinnitus, making it harder to manage.
One way to reduce the effects of jet lag is to take melatonin. This will reset your sleep/circadian rhythm. Just like with any medication or supplement, discuss using it with your doctor.
Melatonin is a hormone that discharges from the brain that signals to your body that it is nighttime and it’s time to sleep. Melatonin is available in pill form as an over-the-counter (or prescription) sleep aid in many countries, including the U.S. If you take it at your usual bedtime and then at a different time to adapt to your new time zone, it can help you sleep easier and also relieve jet lag by syncing up your circadian rhythm to the new time zone at a faster pace.
3. Pressure-equalizing earplugs can be worn during flights and drives that take place in higher elevations
Everyone who has ever been in an aircraft that ascended into the sky or drove up any mountain has noticed that a quick change in elevation can impact your ears.
The pressure levels in airplane cabins can reach from about 6,000 - 8,000 feet above sea level, and mountainous terrain can reach even higher levels. Based on the level of elevation that you start off on, this can equal a significant rapid change.
Feelings of fullness, pain, and popping in the ear are normal experiences when there’s a quick pressure change. The pressure that occurs in your middle ear cannot change as quickly as the air pressure in the environment. As a result, the eardrum winds up swelling inwards or outwards.
This doesn’t happen to everyone. If your ears are susceptible to elevation shifts, barometric pressure, or even changes in weather, it can negatively impact your tinnitus.
A solution is wearing pressure-equalizing earplugs. You can find an affordable pair that uses filters to steadily equalize the pressure. Check out EarPlanes® or Mack’s FlightGuard Aviation Earplugs.
4. Pack different types of hearing protection so you’re ready for any noisy environment
Everyone, no matter how good their hearing is, should be prepared to protect their hearing from loud noises. It’s even more important to do so if you have tinnitus. Dangerous noise levels can destroy your hearing and permanently worsen symptoms of tinnitus. Even if there isn’t permanent damage, just about everyone who has tinnitus has noticed spikes in symptoms when exposed to loud noises. If you know that your environment will be loud, remember to pack earplugs. There may be loud environments that where you were not anticipating to be in when traveling.
To avoid potential hearing loss, always have two sets of earplugs that are easily accessible when traveling: a pair of regular foam or silicone earplugs (these are helpful in very loud settings) and another pair of high-fidelity musician’s earplugs (these reduce volume levels, but you can still hear music and other people’s voices when they speak to you).
Customized earplugs that are perfectly contoured to your ears can also be made. You can talk to our hearing instrument specialists about getting them made.
5. Pack your own food and snacks
The selection that is available for food at most airports and rest stops are generally fast food or junk food that is high in salt and sugar. If your tinnitus tends to worsen after consuming salt, sugar, or caffeinated drinks, it would be best to pack foods that are healthier for you. Even if these things do not trigger your tinnitus, consuming unhealthy foods can take its toll on your body and add unnecessary stress during your trip.
You are allowed to bring your own food through airport security checkpoints. There are regulations when it comes to international travel - laws are different in each country, so you might not be able to carry on certain fruits and vegetables.
6. Shop in a local grocery store
When you make it to your destination, go to a local grocery store. They’ll have healthy options for food and drinks that are less expensive than the stash that’s available in the hotel or their minifridge.
7. Preview restaurant menus
It’s tempting to simply go to a fast-food restaurant, or picking just any restaurant if you’re really hungry. Following a low-sodium diet is going to be difficult in these places, which can add stress.
Prior to each trip, do a little research and look at restaurant menus that will cater to your diet. You can even book a reservation so you know that you’ll have a place and time set aside.
If you decide to rent a home or an Airbnb, you can simply cook your own meals and control the amount of salt and sugar that goes into your meals instead of worrying about what restaurants will serve you.
8. Give yourself some R&R
While traveling, your health habits and daily routines may go out the window. Your sleep schedule will probably be disrupted. This could create stress, and stress usually equals spikes in tinnitus. Always make time for self-care. Rest and relax when possible.
9. Keep track of your medications and hearing aids
So many things can go awry while traveling. Your bags get lost, plane delays, or a change in plans. Always keep important medications and devices with you, NOT in a checked bag or inaccessible suitcase. Make sure your hearing aids are fully charged or you have extra batteries with you. If you get stuck in a location, they’ll be easier to locate.
10. Proper sleep can go a long way
Insomnia is a common cause of tinnitus spikes. Tinnitus can make sleeping difficult, which generates a vicious cycle.
It’s not always easy to fall asleep, especially in unfamiliar places. Research indicates that the left side of your brain stays on alert during the first night, and possibly into the second night if you are in a new space.
You can prioritize and protect your sleep routines by going to bed and waking up during normal hours. Use any means necessary to make sure you get enough sleep. You might want to use a sleep mask, sound machine, earplugs, or meditate before going to sleep. You might even want to bring your own pillow if it’s easy to store during your travels.
If you have tinnitus and/or hearing loss, hearing aids could be a solution to get control of your tinnitus so that it’s more manageable. Get in touch with us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation.