Whether or not it’s only with you sometimes or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Annoying may not be the best word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? No matter what the description, that noise that you can’t turn off is a serious issue in your life. So what can be done? Can that ringing actually be prevented?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
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 endures tinnitus, which is the medical name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a symptom of something else. That something else is hearing loss for many. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really evident why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing. That the brain is producing the sound to fill the void is the present theory.
Thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. How about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing through a vent. These types of sound are not generally heard because the brain decides you don’t need to hear them.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. If half of those sounds are turned off, what happens then? It becomes bewildering for the portion of your brain that hears sound. It might be possible that the phantom noises that come with tinnitus are the brain’s way of generating sound for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. It can be linked to severe health problems like:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- High blood pressure
- Head or neck trauma
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. Before looking for other methods of dealing with it, you should see a doctor for a hearing exam.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
You can decide what to do about it when you find out why you have it. The only thing that works, in many cases, is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is the cause of your tinnitus, you need to create some. Something as basic as a fan running in the background might generate enough sound to turn off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
Technology such as a white noise generator is designed just for this purpose. They simulate a natural sound that is soothing like the ocean waves or falling rain. Some come with pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids will also work. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is looking for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. The brain has no further need to produce phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
A combination of tricks works the best for most people. 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 silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Manage You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
Changing your lifestyle a little bit can help too. Start by determining what the triggers are. Keep a journal and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- 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 the cause, so look for 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. Start by doing everything you can to protect your hearing like:
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
That means you have to eat right, get lots of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To eliminate treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.