Whether or not it’s only with you from time to time or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Annoying might not be the best word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? That sound that you can’t get rid of is a problem no matter how you decide to describe it. So what can be done? Is even possible to stop that ringing in your ears?
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 experiences tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition itself. That something else is hearing loss for many. Tinnitus is a typical side effect of hearing decline. Why tinnitus occurs when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not clear. At this time the theory is that the brain is filling the void by producing noise.
You experience thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, for example, but those are just the obvious noises. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less obvious. These sorts of sound are not usually heard because the brain decides you don’t need to hear them.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain react? The portion of your brain in control of hearing gets confused. It may generate the phantom tinnitus noises to fill in the blanks because it realizes sound should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. Severe health problems can also be the cause, such as:
- High blood pressure
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck tumors
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Head or neck trauma
- Meniere’s disease
Any of these can cause tinnitus. Even though you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you might still experience this ringing. Before searching for other methods of dealing with it, you need to see a doctor to have a hearing exam.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to know why you have it before you can begin to determine what to do about it. The only thing that works, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is due to the lack of sound, make some. Something as basic as a fan running in the background could create 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 relaxing natural sounds like rain falling or ocean waves. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.
Hearing aids will also work. The sounds the brain is looking for can be turned up using quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain no longer needs to generate phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for most people. 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. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle modifications will help, as well. 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:
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will notice the patterns that trigger the ringing. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus from the beginning is the best way to deal with it. Begin by doing everything you can to protect your hearing like:
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
That means you have to eat healthily, get plenty of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To eliminate treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.