Whether you hear it occasionally or it’s with you all day and night, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Perhaps annoying isn’t the best word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? No matter how you decide to describe that sound that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. Can anything be done? Is even possible to prevent that ringing in your ears?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is responsible for the clicking, ringing, buzzing, or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from 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 people. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. The latest theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.
Every day you experience thousands, possibly 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. How about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. These types of sound are not usually heard because the brain decides you don’t really need to hear them.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. If half of those sounds are switched off, what happens then? It becomes bewildering for the part of your brain that hears sound. It may be possible that the phantom sounds that come with tinnitus are the brain’s way of creating sound for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck tumors
- Meniere’s disease
- A reaction to medication
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these. You may experience the ringing despite the fact that you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before attempting to find another way to get rid of it.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
When you know why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. Sometimes, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is because of the lack of sound, make some. It doesn’t have to be much, something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough noise to turn off that ringing.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed for this purpose. They simulate soothing natural sounds like rain falling or ocean waves. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Another thing that also works well is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. The brain has no further need to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
For most people, the answer is a combination of tricks. You might use hearing aids during the day and use a white noise machine at night, for instance.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not successful or if the tinnitus is more severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It can also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Start by determining what the triggers are. Keep a record and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
The more specific your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that might be inducing the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so look for ways to relax like exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to get rid of tinnitus is to prevent it in the first place. Begin by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. To rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.