Whether or not it’s only with you once in a while or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Annoying may not be the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating may be better. Whatever 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?
Understand What Tinnitus Is And Why You Have it
Begin 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 name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a symptom of something else. For many, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing decline frequently comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When there is a change in a person’s hearing, it is still not clear why tinnitus happens. That the brain is creating the noise to fill the void is the current theory.
You come across thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of sounds every day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. What about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing through a vent. You don’t really hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? The part of your brain responsible for hearing gets confused. Your brain realizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it generates the noises associated with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, such as:
- A reaction to medication
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck trauma
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- 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. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. Before looking for other ways to get rid of it, you should see a doctor to have a hearing exam.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to find out why you have it before you can start to determine what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that works. You have to make some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. Something as basic as a fan running in the background could produce enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are soothing natural sounds that these devices simulate. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Another thing that also works is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is looking for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain has no further need to create phantom noise.
For the majority of people, the answer is a combination of tricks. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this strategy.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is more severe, there are medications that could help. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle changes. A good starting place is determining what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more accurate your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that could be inducing the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so look for ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus in the first place. Start by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. Lastly, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.