Whether you only hear it from time to time or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating might fit better. No matter how you decide to describe that sound that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. Can anything be done? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?
Understand Why You Have Tinnitus And Exactly What it is
Begin by finding out 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 suffers from tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a symptom of something else. Hearing loss is often the main cause of tinnitus. 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. The current theory is the brain creates the noise to fill a void.
Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. Some noticeable examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. How about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. You don’t really hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. If half of those sounds are shut off, what happens then? Confusion occurs in the portion of the brain that hears sound. It might generate the phantom tinnitus sounds to fill in the blanks because it knows sound should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. It can be linked to severe health issues like:
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- Meniere’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- Head or neck tumors
- A reaction to medication
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
Any of these things can cause tinnitus. You may experience the ringing even though you hear fine or after an injury or accident. It’s important to get checked out by a doctor to determine why you have tinnitus before searching for ways to deal with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
Once you identify 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. You need to produce some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. It doesn’t have to be much, something as simple as a fan running in the background could generate enough sound to shut off that ringing.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or rain falling are soothing natural sounds which these devices simulate. Some have pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Investing in hearing aids is also a good solution. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer created by the brain.
For the majority of people, the solution is a combination of tricks. For example, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is more severe, there are medications that could help. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
Modifying your lifestyle a little bit can help too. A good starting point is identifying what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a log. Be specific:
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- What did you just eat?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns which 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
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Wearing ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Lastly, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.