The ringing of tinnitus will be annoying whether or not you just hear it occasionally or all of the time. There may be a more suitable word than annoying. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? Whatever the description, that sound that you can’t turn off is a big problem in your life. What can you do, though? Can that ringing really be stopped?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start 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 itself is not a condition but a sign of something else. For many people, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really clear why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing. At this time the theory is that the brain is filling the void by producing noise.
You come across thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every day. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, as an example, but those are just the noticeable noises. How about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into 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 shut off, what happens then? The portion of your brain responsible for hearing becomes bewildered. It may generate the phantom tinnitus sounds to compensate because it realizes sound should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Poor circulation
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck tumors
- Head or neck trauma
- High blood pressure
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- A reaction to medication
- Turbulent blood flow
- Meniere’s disease
Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. Despite the fact that you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you might still experience this ringing. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before trying to find other ways to get rid of it.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
When you identify 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 tinnitus is caused by the lack of sound, make some. The ringing might be able to be shut off by something as simple as a fan running in the background.
Technology such as a white noise generator is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are soothing natural sounds that these devices simulate. Some have pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids also work. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is listening for like the AC running. The brain doesn’t need to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
A combination of tricks works the best for the majority of people. You might use hearing aids during the day and use a white noise machine at night, for instance.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not successful or if the tinnitus is severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It can also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. A good starting place is determining what triggers your tinnitus. Write down in a journal what’s taking place when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
The more specific your information, the faster you’ll notice the patterns that might be triggering the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so look for ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the correct steps to prevent tinnitus from the start. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Wearing ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.