I have very severe tinnitus and I find lots of exercise very difficult because I have problems with my balance and dizzy spells. I have a hula hoop but even that can put me off balance at times. Have you any other suggestions?
Professional thinking about how to cope with tinnitus has changed a lot in recent years. Rather than just labelling it an inexplicable and incurable condition, many physicians encourage sufferers to try and reduce the intrusive effects by learning how to reprogramme the way their brains deal with the noises. If you haven’t already done so, check out the information at two websites, the British Tinnitus Association and the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Site to get lots more tips and self-help advice on this phenomenon.
The relationship between your tinnitus and the other problems – dizziness and poor balance – may be quite complicated. Our balance control organs live in our inner ears, but although there are lots of connections between hearing and balance, they are separate systems.
If you have had the tinnitus badly for a long time, you may have assumed that the dizziness and bad balance are just part of the condition. But this isn’t necessarily the case: there are many causes of dizziness and poor balance – and in most cases the effects can be reduced or cured. I strongly suggest that if you have not yet done so, you ask the GP to help you get your dizziness and poor balance investigated by appropriate specialists. You may have developed an inner-ear problem that can be put right.
You should also be aware that many medications – or specific combinations of drugs – can cause dizzy, off-balance symptoms. A simple change of medication (eg blood pressure pills) can bring a dramatic improvement.
Once you have had your “vestibular” (balance) system investigated, you will gain a clearer idea as to what kinds of exercise are essential, helpful or to be avoided. You might, for instance, qualify for referral to a special “strength and balance” postural stability course of exercise, which run in many areas of the country now as part of the government’s efforts to reduce falls among older people. These classes will teach you how to sharpen your balance and cope with dizziness.
I don’t think the hula hoop is a great exercise option for you – it can be quite dizzy-making at the best of times! However, there is one kind of exercise that stands a good chance of helping all of your problems as well as providing an overall conditioning workout, and that’s tai chi. Excellent for balance, tai chi also prioritises breathing control and co-ordination, which in turn promotes relaxation. Many tinnitus sufferers find it hard to relax, so this is a real bonus.
You might also try an aquacize class (water aerobics). The chest-level water will support you when you lose your balance and the fact that these classes are energetic, very noisy and a lot of fun may also be a welcome distraction from the tinnitus.