Photo of man tackling tinnitus metaphorically when he's really tackling a quarterback.

Tinnitus is a condition that impacts over 45 million people in this country, according to the National Tinnitus Association. Don’t worry, if you have it, you’re not alone. It’s generally unclear why people get tinnitus and there is no cure. For many, the secret to living with it is to find ways to manage it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a good place to begin.

Getting to Know Tinnitus

About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear sounds that no one else can. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical issue. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.

Hearing loss is the most common reason people develop tinnitus. Think of it as the brain’s method of filling in some gaps. A lot of the time, your mind works to translate the sound you hear and then determines if you need to know about it. All the sound around is transformed by the ear into electrical signals but before that, it’s just pressure waves. The brain transforms the electrical impulses into words that you can comprehend.

You don’t actually “hear” all the sound that is around you. The brain filters out the sound it doesn’t think is important to you. You might not hear the wind blowing, as an example. Because it’s not crucial, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.

When someone develops certain kinds of hearing loss, there are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret. The brain expects them, but due to injury in the inner ear, they never arrive. When that occurs, the brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill that space.

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Roaring
  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

The phantom noise may be high pitched, low pitched, loud or soft.

Hearing loss is not the only reason you might have tinnitus. Here are some other potential causes:

  • Earwax accumulation
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Ear bone changes
  • Head injury
  • TMJ disorder
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Loud noises near you
  • Poor blood flow in the neck
  • Malformed capillaries
  • High blood pressure
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Medication
  • Neck injury
  • Tumor in the head or neck

Although physically harmless, tinnitus is linked to anxiety and depression and can cause problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.

Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention

Prevention is how you prevent an issue as with most things. Decreasing your risk of hearing loss later in life starts with protecting your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

  • When you’re at work or at home avoid long term exposure to loud noises.
  • If you have an ear infection, see a doctor.
  • Spending less time wearing headphones or earbuds.

Get your hearing checked every few years, also. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss problem.

If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms

Ringing doesn’t tell you how or why you got tinnitus, but it does tell you that you have it. A little trial and error can help you understand more.

Find out if the sound goes away over time if you avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.

Take a close look at your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing began? Did you, for example:

  • Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
  • Attend a party
  • Go to a concert
  • Work or sit near an unusually loud noise

The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these scenarios.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away

Getting an ear exam would be the next thing to do. Some possible causes your physician will look for are:

  • Stress levels
  • Infection
  • Ear wax
  • Inflammation
  • Ear damage

Here are some specific medications that might cause this problem too:

  • Antidepressants
  • Cancer Meds
  • Antibiotics
  • Quinine medications
  • Aspirin
  • Water pills

The tinnitus might go away if you make a change.

If there is no obvious cause, then the doctor can order a hearing test, or you can schedule one on your own. Hearing aids can better your situation and minimize the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.

Treating Tinnitus

Since tinnitus is a side effect and not an illness, treating the cause would be the first step. The tinnitus should disappear once you take the correct medication if you have high blood pressure.

Looking for a way to control tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. A helpful tool is a white noise machine. They create the noise the brain is waiting for and the ringing stops. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.

Another approach is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that creates a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. You can use this strategy to learn not to pay attention to it.

You will also need to discover ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. Write down everything before the ringing started.

  • What were you doing?
  • What did you eat or drink?
  • What sound did you hear?

The diary will help you to find patterns. Caffeine is a well-known trigger, so if you had a double espresso each time, you know to order something else in the future.

Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best hope is finding a way to eliminate it or at least reduce its impact. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

Why wait? You don't have to live with hearing loss. Call Us Today