Whether you hear it occasionally or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus is annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? No matter how you decide to describe that sound that you can’t seem to turn off, it’s a problem. What can you do, though? Can that ringing actually be stopped?
Know What Tinnitus Is And Why You Have it
Begin by learning more about the condition that is responsible for the clicking, ringing, 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 is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. For many, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing decline typically comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not clear. The latest theory is the brain creates the noise to fill a void.
Thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less noticeable. These sorts of sound are not normally heard because the brain decides you don’t need to hear them.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. If half of those sounds are switched off, what happens then? It becomes bewildering for the part of your brain that hears sound. It might produce the phantom tinnitus noises to fill in the blanks because it recognizes sound should be there.
Tinnitus has other possible causes also. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- Head or neck trauma
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck tumors
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Meniere’s disease
- High blood pressure
Any of these things can cause tinnitus. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you may experience this ringing. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before attempting to find other ways of dealing with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to understand why you have it before you can start to figure out what to do about it. The only thing that helps, in many cases, is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to generate some. The ringing may be able to be shut off by something as simple as a fan running in the background.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed specifically for this purpose. They simulate a natural sound that is calming such as the ocean waves or rain falling. Some come with pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Getting hearing aids is also a good option. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is looking for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain has no further need to produce phantom noise.
For most people, the answer is a combination of tricks. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this strategy.
There are also medications available if soft sounds are not effective or if the tinnitus is more severe. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Modifying your lifestyle a little bit will help too. A good starting place is determining what triggers your tinnitus. Keep a record and make a note of what’s happening when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more precise your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that could be inducing the ringing. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be the cause.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus in the first place is the best way to deal with it. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Turning down the volume on everything
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. To rule out treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.