Whether it’s only with you from time to time or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. There may be a more suitable word than annoying. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating might fit better. Regardless of the description, that noise that you can’t turn off is a serious issue in your life. So what can be done? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
Begin by learning 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 experiences 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 people. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really evident why tinnitus appears when there is a change in a person’s hearing. The latest theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.
Thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are noises you don’t notice. How about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. These kinds of sound are not usually 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 switched off, what happens then? The portion of your brain in control of hearing gets confounded. It might be possible that the phantom noises linked with tinnitus are its way of producing noise for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health problems can also be the cause, like:
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck tumors
- A reaction to medication
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck trauma
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these. You may experience the ringing even though you hear fine or after an injury or accident. Before you look for other methods of dealing with it, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor to get a hearing exam.
What to do About Tinnitus
You can decide what to do about it after you determine why you have it. Sometimes, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is due to the lack of sound, make some. Something as basic as a fan running in the background might produce enough noise 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. Ocean waves or rain falling are relaxing natural sounds which these devices simulate. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Investing in hearing aids is also a good option. 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 generated by the brain.
For most people, the answer is a combination of tricks. You could wear 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 severe. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
You Have to Alter Your Lifestyle if You Want to Handle Your Tinnitus
It will also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. A good starting place is figuring out what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a log. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns that trigger the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so look for ways to relax such as 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:
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.