Whether or not you only hear it once in a while or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Annoying might not be the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating? No matter what the description, that sound that you can’t get rid of is a big problem in your life. What can you do, though? Can that ringing actually be prevented?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Begin by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for the ringing, clicking, buzzing, or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences tinnitus, which is the medical name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition itself. For many, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When a person’s hearing changes, it is still not clear why tinnitus occurs. Currently, the theory is that the brain is filling the void by producing noise.
Every single day you come across thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, as an example, but those are only the noticeable noises. What about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. These kinds of sound are not typically heard because the brain decides you don’t need to hear them.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. Switch half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? The part of your brain responsible for hearing gets bewildered. It might generate the phantom tinnitus sounds to compensate because it realizes sound should be there.
Tinnitus has other possible causes also. Severe health problems can also be the cause, such as:
- Turbulent blood flow
- Head or neck trauma
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Poor circulation
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- High blood pressure
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these things. You might get the ringing despite the fact that you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. It’s important to get checked out by a doctor to determine why you’re experiencing tinnitus before looking for ways to get rid of it.
What to do About Tinnitus
You can figure out what to do about it after you find out why you have it. Sometimes, the only thing that works is to give the brain what it wants. You have to generate some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. Something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough noise to shut off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
There is also technology designed specifically for this purpose such as white noise machines. They imitate a natural sound that is relaxing like the ocean waves or falling rain. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.
Hearing aids will also help. 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 no longer needs to produce phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for most people. For example, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not successful or if the tinnitus is more severe. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can silence this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle modifications will help, as well. A good starting place is figuring out 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 have a cup of coffee or soda?
- What did you just eat?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
You will begin to see the patterns that trigger the ringing if you record the information very accurately. You should find ways to relax such as biofeedback, exercise, and meditation because stress can also be the cause.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus in the first place. Protect your hearing as much as you can by:
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. To rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.