Whether or not it’s only with you occasionally or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Perhaps annoying isn’t the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating? No matter how you decide to describe that noise that you can’t seem to turn off, it’s an issue. So what can be done? Is even possible to get rid of that ringing in your ears?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
Start by finding out 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 endures tinnitus, which is the medical name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a symptom of something else. Hearing loss is often the leading cause of tinnitus. Hearing decline commonly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. That the brain is generating the sound to fill the void is the current theory.
You encounter thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. There is talking, music, car horns, and the TV, for example, but those are only the obvious noises. The sound of air coming through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are less obvious. These kinds of sound are not normally 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. Switch half those sounds off and how would the brain react? Confusion occurs in the part of the brain that hears sound. It is possible that the phantom sounds associated with tinnitus are the brain’s way of creating noise for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Poor circulation
- High blood pressure
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck trauma
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Turbulent blood flow
Tinnitus can be triggered by any of these things. Despite the fact that you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you may still experience this ringing. 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?
You can decide what to do about it when you find out why you have it. The only thing that helps, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. You need to produce some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. A sound as basic as a fan running in the background could create enough noise to shut off the ringing, it doesn’t have to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are soothing natural sounds which these devices simulate. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Another thing which also works well is hearing aids. The sounds the brain is listening for can be turned up using quality hearing aids. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer produced by the brain.
For the majority of people, the solution is a combination of tricks. For example, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not working or if the tinnitus is more severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle modifications can help, too. Determining if there are triggers is a good place to start. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
Be very specific when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns which trigger the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so look for ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
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:
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. To eliminate treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.