Over 45 million people in US are impacted by tinnitus according to the National Tinnitus Association. Don’t worry, if you have it, you’re not alone. It’s generally unclear why people experience tinnitus and there is no cure. Finding ways to deal with it is the trick to living with it, for most. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is an excellent place to start.
Learning About Tinnitus
About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear sounds that no one else can hear. The perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical problem is the medical definition of tinnitus. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
The most common reason people get tinnitus is hearing loss. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. A lot of the time, your brain works to interpret the sound you hear and then decides if you need to know about it. As an example, your someone talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear transforms them into electrical signals. The brain translates the electrical signals into words that you can comprehend.
Sound is everywhere around you, but you don’t “hear” it all. The brain filters out the sound it doesn’t think is important to you. You may not hear the wind blowing, as an example. You can feel it, but the brain masks the sound of it passing by your ears because it’s not essential that you hear it. If you were able to listen to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.
There are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret when someone has hearing loss. The signals never come because of injury but the brain still waits for them. The brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that happens.
For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:
It may be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom noise.
Loss of hearing is not the only reason you might have tinnitus. Here are some other potential causes:
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Earwax accumulation
- Acoustic neuroma
- High blood pressure
- Neck injury
- TMJ disorder
- Ear bone changes
- Loud noises near you
- Head injury
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Meniere’s disease
- Malformed capillaries
Although physically harmless, tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other problems can occur.
Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend
Like with most things, prevention is how you avoid a problem. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Check out these tips to protect your ears:
- Reducing the amount of time you spend wearing headphones or earbuds.
- Reducing long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
- Seeing a doctor if you have an ear infection.
Every few years get your hearing examined, also. The test allows you to make lifestyle changes and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss problem.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing indicates you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t help you understand why you have it or how you got it. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
Find out if the sound stops over time if you avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.
Assess your noise exposure. The night before the ringing began were you around loud noise? Did you, for example:
- Go to a concert
- Attend a party
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these situations.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
Having an ear exam would be the next thing to do. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:
- Ear wax
- Ear damage
- Stress levels
Specific medication might cause this issue too like:
- Cancer Meds
- Quinine medications
- Water pills
Making a change may clear up the tinnitus.
You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other evident cause. Hearing aids can better your situation and minimize the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.
Because tinnitus isn’t an illness, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step would be to treat the cause. If you have high blood pressure, medication will bring it down, and the tinnitus should fade away.
For some people, the only solution is to deal with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to suppress it. White noise machines can be useful. The ringing stops when the white noise replaces the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same result from a fan or dehumidifier.
Another approach is tinnitus retraining. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a device which produces similar tones. You can use this method to learn not to pay attention to it.
Also, staying away from tinnitus triggers is important. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are different for everyone. Write down everything before the ringing began.
- What sound did you hear?
- What were you doing?
- What did you eat or drink?
Tracking patterns is possible in this way. You would know to order something different if you drank a double espresso each time because caffeine is a known trigger.
Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so finding ways to minimize its impact or eliminate it is your best hope. To find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.