It doesn’t matter if you hear it once in a while or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Annoying may not be the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating may be better. Regardless of the description, that noise that you can’t get rid of is a big problem in your life. So what can be done? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is causing the clicking, ringing, buzzing, or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population endures tinnitus, which is the medical name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. For many, that something else is hearing loss. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not well understood. The current theory is the brain creates the noise to fill a void.
Thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are noises you don’t notice. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are not as noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Switch half those sounds off and how would the brain act in response? It becomes bewildering for the portion of your brain that hears sound. It may produce the phantom tinnitus sounds to fill in the blanks because it knows sound should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Head or neck trauma
- Poor circulation
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
Any of these can cause tinnitus. Despite the fact that you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you might still experience this ringing. It’s essential to get get a hearing exam to find out why you’re experiencing tinnitus before searching for ways to deal with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to understand why you have it before you can begin to determine what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that works. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to generate some. A sound as simple as a fan running in the background might generate enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t have to be much.
There is also technology made just for this purpose such as white noise machines. They simulate calming natural sounds like falling rain or ocean waves. Some have pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids will also work. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. The brain doesn’t need to produce phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
A combination of tricks is most effective for most 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 more severe, there are medications that might help. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.
Manage You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
Making a few lifestyle modifications can help, too. A good starting point is identifying what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
You will start to see the patterns which induce the ringing if you record the information very accurately. You should find ways to relax like biofeedback, exercise, and meditation because stress can also be the cause.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus from the beginning. Start by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Wearing ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise also. To eliminate treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.