Over 45 million people in this country are impacted by tinnitus according to the National Tinnitus Association. Rest assured, if you have it, you’re not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not always clear why certain people get tinnitus. For many, the trick to living with it is to come up with ways to manage it. A perfect place to start to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.
About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear sounds that no one else can. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical issue. It’s not an illness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
The most common reason people get tinnitus is hearing loss. The brain is attempting to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Most of the time, your brain works to interpret the sound you hear and then determines if you need to know about it. For example, your friend talking to you is just sound waves until the inner ear converts them into electrical signals. The brain transforms the electrical impulses into words that you can understand.
Sound is everywhere around you, but you don’t “hear” it all. If the brain doesn’t think a sound is important to you, it filters it out. For instance, you don’t always hear the wind blowing. Because it’s not important, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.
When someone suffers from certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The brain waits for them, but due to injury in the inner ear, they never arrive. When that takes place, the brain may try to create a sound of its own to fill that space.
Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:
The phantom noise may be high pitched, low pitched, loud or soft.
Hearing loss is not the only reason you could have tinnitus. Here are some other potential factors:
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- High blood pressure
- Acoustic neuroma
- Neck injury
- Meniere’s disease
- Head injury
- Malformed capillaries
- Earwax build up
- Loud noises around you
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Ear bone changes
- TMJ disorder
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and can cause problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.
Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend
As with most things, prevention is how you avert a problem. Protecting your ears decreases your risk of hearing loss later in life. Tips to protect your hearing health include:
- Avoiding long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend using headphones or earbuds.
- If you have an ear infection, see a doctor.
Get your hearing checked every few years, too. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it allows you to get treatment or make lifestyle changes to avoid further damage.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing doesn’t tell you how or why you got tinnitus, but it does tell you that you have it. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds entirely and see if the sound goes away after a while.
Assess your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? For instance, did you:
- Go to a concert
- Attend a party
- Work or sit next to an unusually loud noise
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
The tinnitus is most likely temporary if you answered yes to any of these situations.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away
The next thing to do would be to have an ear exam. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
Specific medication might cause this issue too like:
- Quinine medications
- Cancer Meds
- Water pills
The tinnitus might clear up if you make a change.
If there is no obvious cause, then the doctor can order a hearing examination, or you can schedule one on your own. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can minimize the ringing and better your situation.
Since tinnitus isn’t an illness, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step is to treat the cause. The tinnitus should go away once you take the proper medication if you have high blood pressure.
For some, the only answer is to deal with the tinnitus, which means looking for ways to control it. A useful device is a white noise machine. They create the noise the brain is missing and the ringing goes away. You can also get the same result from a fan or dehumidifier.
Tinnitus retraining is another approach. You wear a device that delivers a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. You can use this strategy to learn not to pay attention to it.
Also, avoiding tinnitus triggers is important. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything right before you heard the ringing.
- What sound did you hear?
- What did you eat or drink?
- What were you doing?
Tracking patterns is possible in this way. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to get something else in the future.
Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so discovering ways to reduce its impact or eliminate it is your best chance. To find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.