Socialising with tinnitus | British Tinnitus Association

Socialising with tinnitus can be challenging.

Some friends have invited you out to dinner. Your heart says “go”, but your brain tells you the restaurant will be noisy, you’ll need to concentrate to hear and so you’ll sit back, smiling and nodding vaguely.

You’ll feel excluded and more alone than if you’d said no to the invitation … and then by the end of the night, you’ll have a headache from all the effort, and your tinnitus will be screaming. So you say, “no thanks, not this time”.

There’s a few more invitations, a few more excuses and then they cease coming, and instead, you sit at home with the TV, perhaps a crossword and a cup of tea.

If that scenario sounds familiar, then no, you’re not alone.

Our recent survey discovered that 4 in 10 people with tinnitus have changed their social lives because of the condition. It can be very easy to become isolated and withdrawn.

So what can you do to reclaim your social life?

Firstly, I would suggest that you be upfront about your tinnitus (and any hearing loss you might have). It doesn’t help that tinnitus is an invisible condition, so people might not realise – or remember – you have it.

Most people are understanding once they know, and want to help.

If people really want an idea of what tinnitus is like, we have an excellent video here so they can hear tinnitus for themselves

Coping in a restaurant

As well as picking a restaurant according to its menu, consider the acoustics as well. Restaurants with upholstered chairs, low ceilings, carpets and generous curtains will be easier on the ear than places with stark benches and tiled floors and walls, as soft furnishings absorb sound. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions about which venues would work best for you.

But what else can you do to help?

  • Ask to be seated in a booth, or the quietest area if possible.
  • If the music is overpowering, ask the staff to turn it down. It’s probably bothering other people, too.
  • Don’t be afraid to switch places to get the best possible spot for your hearing – if your tinnitus is one-sided, have the ‘good’ ear nearest to people.
  • Consider making a booking away from peak times, so the restaurant is quieter. Service is often better then, too!

How to handle a party

Parties can be hard work if you have tinnitus or a hearing problem. There’s often loud music, and with everyone talking, it creates a confusing wall of sound.

Use the tips above, but you might also want to move outside or to a quieter room if you can. Try to focus on one person at a time instead of four or five people in a group. Get as close to the speaker as personal space allows, which also creates an intimate, friendly feeling.

Walk into the party knowing you won’t hear everything. It’s impossible, so give yourself some leeway, and let some conversations go by.

A night at the cinema

Lots of people like to go to the cinema – it can be a fun evening out. However, when you have tinnitus, it can be a trying experience, with loud background music and sound effects.

Consider wearing earplugs for the loudest action-adventure films – which is sensible advice for your companions too. A colleague recently measured the sound level on a recent cinema trip at 110dB – well over the safe exposure limit!

Some cinemas now offer alternative screenings for popular films for people with sensory issues. These include subtitled screenings or screenings with lower volume and levels of darkness.

Taking in a musical event

Musical events are another place where the safe exposure limit for sound can be exceeded.

Not only can this trigger tinnitus in those who don’t currently have it, but it can also make existing tinnitus worse.

These tips will help you protect yourself:

  • Use earplugs. Earplugs with filters will reduce the volume of the sound without reducing the quality, meaning you can actually hear the music better.
  • Don’t stand by the speakers or too close to the musicians.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic drinks – ears need good hydration to keep healthy.
  • Take regular breaks away from the sound.

Your social life does not need to stop if you develop tinnitus. With planning and some coping strategies, you can return to the activities that add colour to life!

(Images courtesy Pixabay)

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