Whether or not you only hear it from time to time or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. Annoying might not be the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating may fit better. No matter what the description, that sound that you can’t turn off is a big problem in your life. So what can be done? Can that ringing really be prevented?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is causing the ringing, clicking, buzzing, or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population endures tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a sign of something else. That something else is loss of hearing for many. Tinnitus is a common side effect of hearing decline. Why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not well understood. That the brain is creating the noise to fill the void is the current theory.
You come across thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. What about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. If half of those sounds are turned off, what happens then? Confusion happens in the portion of the brain that hears sound. It might be possible that the phantom noises that come with tinnitus are the brains way of generating sound for it to interpret because it recognizes it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. Severe health problems can also be the cause, such as:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- High blood pressure
- Head or neck tumors
- Meniere’s disease
- A reaction to medication
Any of these can trigger tinnitus. You might experience the ringing despite the fact that you hear fine or after an injury or accident. It’s important to get checked out by a doctor to find out why you’re experiencing tinnitus before searching for ways to deal with it.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
When you know why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. The only thing that works, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is because of the lack of sound, generate some. It doesn’t need to be very much, something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough sound to turn off the ringing.
There is also technology made specifically for this purpose such as white noise machines. Ocean waves or falling rain are calming natural sounds that these devices simulate. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids will also do the trick. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. The brain has no further need to produce phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
For many people, the solution is a combination of tricks. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this approach.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that could help. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Changing your lifestyle a little bit will help as well. Begin by determining if there are triggers. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a log. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
Be very accurate when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns that trigger the ringing. You should find ways to relax like biofeedback, exercise, and meditation because stress can also be responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus in the first place. Start by doing everything you can to protect your hearing like:
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Wearing ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
That means you have to eat right, get plenty of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To rule out treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.