The ringing of tinnitus will be annoying whether or not you just hear it sporadically or all of the time. There may be a more appropriate word than annoying. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? No matter how you choose to describe that noise that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. So what can be done? How can you stop that ringing in your ears?
Understand 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 term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus itself is not a condition but a sign of something else. That something else is loss of hearing for many people. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really clear why tinnitus occurs when there is a change in a person’s hearing. That the brain is generating the noise to fill the void is the present theory.
Every single day you come across thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are noises you don’t notice. What about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air coming through a vent. These sorts of sound are not typically 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. Turn half those sounds off and how would the brain act in response? It becomes bewildering for the part of your brain that hears sound. Your brain is aware that the sound should be there so it’s possible that it generates the noises associated with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Meniere’s disease
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- Head or neck trauma
- A reaction to medication
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Head or neck tumors
- Poor circulation
Tinnitus can be triggered by any of these. Even though you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you could still experience this ringing. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before attempting to find other ways to get rid of it.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to know why you have it before you can start to figure out what to do about it. The only thing that helps, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is because of the lack of sound, generate some. Something as basic as a fan running in the background may create enough sound to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed for this purpose. They imitate a natural sound that is calming such as the ocean waves or falling rain. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Hearing aids will also do the trick. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is listening for like the AC running. The brain has no further need to create phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
For most people, the solution is a combination of tricks. For example, you might use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If the tinnitus is severe and soft sounds don’t work there are also medications that you can get. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Determining if there are triggers is a good place to begin. Keep a diary and make a note of what’s happening when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- What did you just eat?
The more accurate your information, the faster you’ll notice the patterns that might be inducing the ringing. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus from the start. Start by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning the volume down on everything
That means eat healthily, get lots of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To rule out treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.