Whether you only hear it once in a while or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. Annoying might not be the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating may be better. However you decide to describe that sound that you can’t seem to turn off, it’s an issue. Can anything be done? Can that ringing actually be prevented?
Know What Tinnitus Is And Why You Have it
Begin by finding out 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 suffers from 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. That something else is hearing loss for many. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus occurs when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. Currently, the theory is that the brain is filling the void by creating noise.
Thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. There are the obvious sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are noises you don’t even notice. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. If half of those sounds are turned off, what happens then? The part of your brain in control of hearing becomes confounded. Your brain realizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it creates the noises connected with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
Tinnitus has other possible causes also. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- A reaction to medication
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck trauma
- Head or neck tumors
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Poor circulation
Any of these can cause tinnitus. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. It’s essential to get checked out by a doctor to determine why you’re experiencing tinnitus before searching for other ways to deal with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
Once you find out why you have it, you can 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 could produce enough noise to shut off the ringing, it doesn’t have to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed specifically for this purpose. They simulate relaxing natural sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves. Some have pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Hearing aids also work. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer created by the brain.
A combination of tricks is most effective for the majority of people. For instance, you might 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. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle changes. Determining if there are triggers is a good place to begin. Write down in a journal what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns that trigger the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so try to find ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
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
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. To rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.