Whether or not you hear it from time to time or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Annoying may not be the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? Regardless of the description, that sound that you can’t turn off is a big problem in your life. Can anything be done? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is causing the buzzing, ringing, clicking or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population endures tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition itself. Hearing loss is often the main cause of tinnitus. Hearing decline frequently comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. The latest theory is the brain produces the noise to fill a void.
Thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. Some noticeable examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. How about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing through a vent. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. If half of those sounds are turned off, what happens then? Confusion occurs in the portion of the brain that hears sound. It is possible that the phantom sounds that come with tinnitus are the brains way of creating sound for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- High blood pressure
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck tumors
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Turbulent blood flow
- Head or neck trauma
- Poor circulation
Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. Even though you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you might still experience this ringing. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before attempting to find other ways to get rid of it.
What to do About Tinnitus
Once you find out why you have it, you can determine what to do about it. In some cases, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is the cause of your tinnitus, you need to generate some. It doesn’t need to be much, something as simple as a fan running in the background may generate enough sound to turn off the ringing.
Technology such as a white noise generator is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are calming natural sounds that these devices simulate. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.
Hearing aids will also do the trick. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain has no further need to produce phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for the majority of people. For instance, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that could help. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can silence this noise.
You Have to Change Your Lifestyle if You Want to Handle Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle modifications will help, as well. A good starting place is identifying what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a log. Be specific:
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
Be very specific when you record the information and pretty soon you will notice the patterns which trigger the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so look for ways to relax such as exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus in the first place is the best way to deal with it. Protect your hearing as much as you can by:
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.