by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
One man explained,
For a quick fix for tinnitus, I take a shower. Whenever I shower, I always let the water gush into my ears for 30-60 seconds, back and forth, ear to ear. I do this first thing (when I can remember) so that I don’t forget. (Sometimes I have come out of he shower, dried off, and then realized I forgot to do this to my detriment.) At worst, the tone will change, usually lessening, and at best the ringing is gone, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for an hour, sometimes all day. Certainly good enough to make a habit.
In response to some of my questions he added,
You asked me what pitch my tinnitus was so that it reacted to a shower noise. To be honest, I can’t describe it. It’s probably a ringing/swishing sound. At one time it was very bad but it is quite tolerable now. The shower works about 80% of the time, though sometimes only briefly. Also, if you don’t want to get your ears wet, you can just put your ear close to a kitchen faucet while the water is running. To me it gives the same effect. I find it works well when my ear is about 6″ from the running water.
What you have discovered is called residual inhibition. I’ve never heard of residual inhibition occurring from squirting water into your ears, but obviously, the sounds of water makes in your ears are causing residual inhibition in your case. Isn’t that wonderful?
Actually, I don’t think it is the fact that the water is squirting into your ears, but the shhhhh (white noise) sounds the shower-head makes that does the trick. That is why just putting your ear close to any faucet that makes a similar noise also works.
With residual inhibition, you typically listen to sounds that are similar in quality to your tinnitus. For some reason, after you listen for a few seconds or a few minutes and then stop it, you find that your tinnitus stops as well. As you have found, sometimes this residual inhibition only lasts for a few seconds or a few minutes. However, sometimes it can last for a few hours or even a few days, and in extreme cases, some people have found that their tinnitus never returns.
This works for some people and not for others. You are one of the fortunate ones. It does not work for my kind of tinnitus, for example.
Caution: Do not squirt water into your ear canals unless you have a reduced-flow shower head. The older higher-pressure shower heads, or any shower-head that produces a strongly-pulsating or direct stream of water, when directed into your ear canals can cause tinnitus. The force of the water hitting your eardrum gives exactly the same results as exposing your ears to a sudden loud sound. People that do this are risking making their existing tinnitus worse and causing tinnitus where none existed before. Gentle, reduced-flow shower heads do not cause tinnitus in my experience. I’ve been using them daily for more than a decade without any tinnitus problems.
If you want to learn more about residual inhibition and tinnitus, or more about many other tinnitus treatment protocols, check out my book, When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How.