Whether or not it’s only with you periodically or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating may fit better. However you decide to describe that sound that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. What can you do, though? Can that ringing actually be stopped?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Begin by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for the buzzing, ringing, clicking or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population endures tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a sign of something else. For many people, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing decline frequently comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When there is a change in a person’s hearing, it is still unclear why tinnitus occurs. At this time the theory is that the brain is filling the void by generating noise.
Every single day you experience thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, as an example, but those are just the obvious noises. The sound of air coming through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are not so noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain react? The portion of your brain in control of hearing gets confused. It may be possible that the phantom noises associated with tinnitus are its way of creating noise for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. It can be connected to severe health issues like:
- Head or neck trauma
- Head or neck tumors
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Turbulent blood flow
- Meniere’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- A reaction to medication
Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. You may get the ringing even though you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before trying to find another way of dealing with it.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
Once you find out why you have it, you can determine what to do about it. In some cases, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to generate some. Something as simple as a fan running in the background might create enough noise to turn off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
Technology such as a white noise generator is made just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are calming natural sounds which these devices simulate. Some come with pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Another thing that also works well is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain has no further need to create phantom noise.
For many people, the answer is a combination of tricks. For instance, you might use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that could help. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
It can also help if you make a few lifestyle changes. Begin by determining what the triggers are. Keep a journal and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
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 responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus in the first place 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 the volume down on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. To eliminate treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.