Digital fatigue and tinnitus | British Tinnitus Association

Audiologist Paul Harrison explores how to pull back the feeling of fatigue and relieve tinnitus spikes.

Do you often feel a sense of exhaustion after a long day of digital meetings on Zoom? Experiencing head tension, eye ache and having spikes in your tinnitus? In short, it’s your brain’s way of telling you “Stop, it’s time for a break!”

It is important to firstly normalise digital fatigue. It is a completely normal consequence of long periods of digital access. Unfortunately, people who have tinnitus struggle daily with managing their symptoms – then you throw digital fatigue into the mix! So how can we pull back that mental and physical feeling of exhaustion and relieve spikes in our tinnitus?

The effects of a digital generation

After the initial pandemic wave, organisations have either chosen to continue allowing staff to work remotely or have introduced a hybrid working structure. Both work methods are now a huge part of our lives, as this increasing digital generation evolves and shows no signs of stopping.

The result is a nation that is now struggling to cope with high levels of digital fatigue, as we continue to access digital tools to communicate with colleagues, family and friends. Most households are now living their lives in front of their screens.

Distorted viewing and strained listening are some of the many links to digital fatigue. Along with finding it harder to manage tinnitus symptoms, these additional strains can lead to a lack of sleep and higher levels of stress. Your body’s way of reacting to these physical and mental complications, caused by digital fatigue, instigates a fight or flight mode that can often trigger spikes in your tinnitus.

Adapting to a new soundscape and new cases of tinnitus spikes

Those with tinnitus go through what is known as a habituation process quite regularly, and new organisation structures have forced them to adapt to new working environments at home, in the office or both quickly. The result? Most are finding it difficult to cope with the effects of long periods of digital meetings and tinnitus spikes and are left feeling debilitated and stretched to capacity.

Learning how to make changes to tinnitus relief methods that reflect this new soundscape is vital. So, you become less aware of the louder sounds of your tinnitus spikes and your attention eventually diverts elsewhere. But what at-home methods can we implement to cope with digital fatigue, whilst managing tinnitus?

Six simple tips

Person with hands together meditating or doing yoga. Finding a solution that’s right for you requires some trial and error and seeing management from both sides – the digital fatigue and the tinnitus spikes. Here, I go through some brief tips that may help gain relief for both.

  1. Focused meditation

Dedicate at least 20 minutes of your lunch break to meditate or practise yoga. Taking this time out consistently will help move the focus away from stress. Slowly you will become less aware of your spikes and tinnitus sounds. You will be able to habituate the sound.

  1. Take note

Keeping notes of what triggers your spikes will encourage you to spend less time doing that activity, taking breaks from it or eliminating it altogether. Tinnitus spikes can be sporadic and it can be hard to pinpoint the cause. Retracing your steps and taking notes will help you to smooth out the ups and downs that come with tinnitus. 

For example, it can go in some way to help you to adapt the way you work – like managing screen time more successfully and setting break times using your mobile’s alarm.

  1. Step away from your screen

After a long digital meeting, you could go for a short walk outside. Fresh air and movement will improve your lymph flow, connect your muscles, improve your posture, boost your mood and reduce stress levels.

  1. Get your sleep back on track

As a tinnitus sufferer, you know how important it is to have a good night’s sleep and recoup from the challenges of the day. It is the same for digital fatigue: you need to rest from the digital exposure and gain some control. 

A strict bedtime and stopping using a screen an hour before you sleep will enable you to winddown.

  1. Consider hearing aids

Because tinnitus and hearing loss are commonly linked, hearing aids might be considered. Hearing aids reduce background noise whilst offering tinnitus therapies and support to combat symptoms in real-time.

Being able to stream audio straight to your ears via these devices can also support you in your online meetings and reduce the risk of digital fatigue.

  1. Switch your focus

To distract you from your tinnitus spikes, use tinnitus apps, white noise therapies and other audio to reduce the background noise of the loud sounds. Create your own playlist that can support you while you work as well as helping to increase your concentration levels.

Finding a relief strategy to suit you and your tinnitus symptoms will take time. Mixing meditation, limiting screen time, using the right tinnitus app and exercising more might be the combination for you. If you are disciplined and stick at it, you can get your life back on track and simply know how to cope better in the moment – with both digital fatigue and those unforgiving tinnitus spikes.

About the author

Paul Harrison studied audiology at Cambridge and has been in the industry for over 20 years. He is the founder of Hearing Aid UK.

Head in hands photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Yoga pose photo by madison lavern on Unsplash

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