Whether you hear it from time to time or it’s with you all day and night, the ringing of tinnitus is annoying. There may be a more suitable word than annoying. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? That sound that you can’t turn off is an issue no matter how you choose to describe it. Can anything be done? Can that ringing really be prevented?
Understand Why You Have Tinnitus And Exactly What it is
Begin by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for 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 is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. For many people, that something else is hearing loss. Hearing decline frequently comes with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really evident why tinnitus occurs when there is a change in a person’s hearing. The latest theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.
You experience thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of sounds every day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are not so noticeable. These kinds of sound are not generally heard because the brain decides you don’t need to hear them.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Now, what happens if you turn half of those sounds off? It becomes perplexing for the part of your brain that hears sound. Your brain recognizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it creates the sounds associated with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- High blood pressure
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Poor circulation
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck trauma
- Turbulent blood flow
- Head or neck tumors
Any of these things can cause tinnitus. Despite the fact that you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you may still experience this ringing. Before you look for other ways to get rid of it, you need to schedule an appointment with a doctor for a hearing exam.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
When you find out 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 the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to generate some. A sound as basic as a fan running in the background could create enough noise to turn off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
There is also technology designed just for this purpose such as white noise machines. Ocean waves or falling rain are soothing natural sounds that these devices simulate. Some come with pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as 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. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer created by the brain.
For the majority of 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 example.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not successful or if the tinnitus is more severe. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can silence this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Begin by determining what the triggers are. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
Be very specific when you record the information and pretty soon you will notice the patterns that trigger the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so try to find ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus from the beginning is the best way to deal with it. Begin by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. To rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.