When You’re the Only One Who Can Hear It

It can be distressing, it affects one in three of us, and while there are many treatments, as yet there’s no cure.

Tinnitus is often described as “ringing in the ears”, but many people experience it as a whistling, whooshing or buzzing sound in their head.

It can come and go, or for many people it’s incessant. As a result, tinnitus can cause significant distress, affecting your ability to socialise, work and sleep.

While there’s no cure yet, there are many effective treatments. Here we answer the top questions about this common but deeply frustrating condition.


Who gets tinnitus?

Around one in three people will suffer from tinnitus at some point in their life, and about one in six have will have it constantly. It mostly affects people over 55, but you can get it at any age.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease, but it is a symptom of other medical conditions. It can be caused by neurological damage, vascular disease, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism and long-term exposure to loud noise.

Short-term tinnitus can be due to wax build-up in the ears, or even a reaction to medication such as aspirin or antibiotics.


What can I do about it?

Although tinnitus can’t be seen or heard by others, it can be diagnosed through hearing tests, so see your doctor or an audiologist.

Your doctor may be able to identify the underlying cause of the tinnitus and find ways to manage that. For example, if your tinnitus is caused by medication, they might suggest switching to another type.

You can also try the many proven treatments and therapies. While these therapies can’t get rid of tinnitus, they can help reduce the perceived severity and make it easier to deal with.


What are the treatments for tinnitus?

  • Hearing aids

Around 90 per cent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, but even if you’re in the other 10 per cent, a hearing aid can still help.

  • Sound therapies

External sounds can help mask, distract or help your brain ignore your particular tinnitus noise.

  • Emotional therapies

The psychological impact of tinnitus is significant, and therapies which help you manage the stress and distress it causes can make a huge difference.

  • Wellness and lifestyle

Stress, alcohol and caffeine can make tinnitus worse, and many people have found that changes such as healthier diet, exercise, meditation and yoga can help.

How Mediation Can Change Your Life… and How It Can’t

It has been heralded as the life-changing remedy for all mental, emotional and physical conditions. Yet for many of us, its benefits remain out of reach. Why?

Is it because it’s too hard?

Because we’re just not doing it right?

Or because the benefits aren’t as big as “they” said?

Here we explore the proven benefits of meditation along with the challenges that you may find in practising it.

What meditation CAN do

Meditation, along with its offshoot mindfulness, is proven to boost your mental and physical health.

Thousands of studies suggest it can help you reduce stress, improve sleep, increase focus and improve anxiety, depression and insomnia, and even reduce blood pressure.

There are too many studies to go into here, but let’s focus on some of the most popular benefits:

  • Stress reduction

Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce stress within eight weeks of regular practice.

Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, found that meditating can change your brain, particularly the parts of the brain linked with stress.

She conducted a study of people who had never meditated before, and put one group through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program. In the group who learned meditation, she found differences in five areas of the brain, including the parts involved in mind-wandering, in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation; in empathy and compassion and in the amygdala, the part for anxiety, fear and stress.

  • Focus

Meditation is proven to help you improve your focus, and in today’s “attention economy”, that’s something of a superpower.

Researchers from the University of Washington studied the impact of an eight-week course on mindfulness-based meditation on a group of knowledge workers. They found those who trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches as well as reporting less negative emotion afterwards.

  • Anxiety, depression, and insomnia

A 2014 literature review of 47 trials in 3,515 participants suggests that mindfulness meditation programs show moderate evidence of improving anxiety and depression.

Another 2012 review of 36 trials found that 25 of them reported better outcomes for symptoms of anxiety in the meditation groups compared to control groups.

What meditation CAN’T do

While meditation and mindfulness are proven to help deal with the challenges of life, they’re not a cure-all.

One of the reasons people give up or get frustrated with meditation is the expectation that it will solve all your problems and transform your life.

Recently, numerous psychotherapists and meditation teachers have voiced concern about the commercialisation of mindfulness.

Dr Nicholas Van Dam, Senior Lecturer in Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, was a co-author of a paper called Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation. Along with psychiatrists, psychologists, and mindfulness experts from 15 different institutions, he says we need to be wary of people over-selling the benefits of mediation.

“I think the biggest concern among my co-authors and I is that people will give up on mindfulness and/or meditation because they try it and it doesn’t work as promised,” says Dr Van Dam.

Another concern is that when people are told they can, and should, ease their stress with mindfulness, it can imply that our stress is caused by us and our inability to control our minds, not by the inequalities of the system we live in.

Emailing Do’s and Don’t’s

Emails were designed to be quick, simple and clear. Are yours?

It might be time to ask yourself if your emails are sending the wrong message.

Have you ever sent an email in the heat of the moment? Or received an email so long that you stopped reading it halfway through? Avoid unwittingly annoying your colleagues or clients by following these rules of email etiquette.


1. Pay attention to the subject line. Avoid general words like ‘Hi’, ‘FYI’ or ‘Touching Base’, and instead write a clear concise subject line that reflects the body of the email, such as ‘Meeting date changed’.

2. Limit your emails to a few short paragraphs. “If you routinely send long, wordy emails, it’s likely that some of your recipients will start tuning out,” says workplace adviser and consultant Alison Green, author of the blog Ask a Manager. “If you need to communicate a large amount of information, email probably isn’t the way to do it.”

3. Make it clear what you’d like the recipient to do. Most of us receive an enormous number of emails, so help the recipient know exactly what you want them to do, says Green. Do you need information or input? Do you want them to take a particular action? Or are you just updating them, so you don’t require any action?


1. Hit “Reply all”. Unless the whole group needs to read your response – such as an ongoing group discussion – avoid using ‘Reply All’ advises Green. “More than 20 years after email came into popular use, offices are still battling epic reply-all failures that flood people’s mailboxes,” she says.

2. Use lots of CAPS and exclamation marks!! Using capital letters can be intimidating to the recipient, as it sounds like you’re yelling, while lots of exclamation marks at the end of sentences can come across as overly emotional or immature.

3. Get angry or snarky in an email. Email isn’t well suited to conflict, as it’s easy for your tone to come across much more harshly than it would in person, says Green. If you sense yourself becoming frustrated, it’s best that you back away from your email and have a real conservation.

Why You Should Start Your Day with a Coffee

Do you ever wonder if your morning caffeine habit could be harming your health? Maybe it’s time to discover the truth about the popular drink.

Many of us love coffee. Its caffeine is a stimulant that helps us feel less tired and more alert, even improving mood, reaction times and general brain function.

For a long time, coffee has been the victim of mixed messages. “One day coffee is reported as being good for us, and the next day, it is harmful,” says nutrition research scientist Dr Tim Crowe on his blog Thinking Nutrition.

But in the last few years a number of large studies have reassured us that moderate coffee drinking is not only safe, but might actually be beneficial.

Coffee lowers disease risk

In 2016, a large scientific review looked at over 1200 studies on coffee and disease, including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, neurological disorders and longevity. For most of the health outcomes, the benefits of three to four cups of coffee a day (moderate consumption) outweighed the risks.

For anyone at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, one of the world’s fastest growing chronic conditions, the news about coffee is good. “Regular coffee drinkers have up to a two-thirds reduced risk of developing this condition,” says Dr Crowe.

Are you concerned about coffee’s supposed links with cancer? In a June 2016 report, the World Health Organisation officially lifted coffee from the list of potentially carcinogenic foods, while the World Cancer Research Fund International concluded that coffee consumption was linked with a lower risk of several types of cancer, including liver and endometrial.


Coffee drinkers live longer

A 2018 study that tracked half a million UK residents, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found those who drank coffee had a lower risk of dying of any cause. Because this is a correlational study, we can’t say for certain that coffee was the cause of the lower risk of death, but other large studies have similar findings.


What’s the good stuff in coffee?

While some of its health effects are related to caffeine, coffee is more than simply a stimulant. Both decaf and regular coffee contain a host of antioxidants including plant compounds called phytochemicals, many of which are likely to have health benefits. In fact, one estimate has found that the typical United States diet provides more antioxidants from coffee than from fruit and vegetables combined. Coffee also contains several nutrients including riboflavin, niacin, magnesium and potassium.

These aren’t all reasons to start drinking coffee if you don’t already, but they do suggest that you can safely enjoy, and benefit from, three to four cups a day.


When to be cautious with coffee

  • If you’re pregnant: It is recommended by health organisations in most countries that you have no more than 200mg caffeine (a maximum of two cups of coffee) a day because of a potential higher risk of miscarriage in women who consume too much caffeine.
  • If you have high blood pressure: don’t overdo your coffee habit as caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure, although the long-term effects are not known.
  • If you have trouble sleeping: limit coffee drinking to before lunch. The half-life of caffeine – the time it takes your body to eliminate 50 per cent of what’s consumed – can vary between people and may last anywhere from two to 10 hours. This means it can still affect you long after you’ve finished your last cup.