Whether you only hear it occasionally or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. Annoying may not be the best word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating? That noise that you can’t get rid of is a problem no matter how you choose to describe it. So what can be done? Is even possible to prevent that ringing in your ears?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is it?
Start by finding out 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 suffers from tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. For many people, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. When there is a change in a person’s hearing, it is still not clear why tinnitus occurs. That the brain is creating the sound to fill the void is the current theory.
You experience thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are noises you don’t even notice. What about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing through a vent. You don’t really hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. If half of those sounds are switched off, what happens then? Confusion happens in the part of the brain that hears sound. Your brain knows the sound should be there so it’s possible that it creates the noises associated with tinnitus to compensate.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. It can be linked to severe health issues like:
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
Any of these can cause tinnitus. You might experience the ringing even though you hear fine or after an injury or accident. It’s important to get get a hearing exam to find out why you have tinnitus before searching for ways to deal with it.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
Once you discover why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that works. If tinnitus is because of the lack of sound, generate some. The ringing may be able to be turned off by something as basic as a fan running in the background.
Technology such as a white noise generator is made just for this purpose. They simulate relaxing natural sounds like rain falling or ocean waves. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Getting hearing aids is also a good solution. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. The brain doesn’t need to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
A combination of tricks works the best for most people. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this strategy.
If the tinnitus is more severe and soft sounds won’t work there are also medications available. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Handle You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
Modifying your lifestyle a little bit can help as well. Figuring out if there are triggers is a good place to start. Write down in a journal what’s happening when the tinnitus begins. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more accurate your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that might 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 from the beginning is the best way to deal with it. Begin by doing everything you can to protect your hearing like:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Wearing ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise also. To rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.