Whether or not it’s only with you from time to time or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Annoying might not be the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating might be better. That sound that you can’t get rid of is a problem however you choose to describe it. Can anything be done? How can you stop that ringing in your ears?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is responsible for the buzzing, ringing, clicking or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a sign of something else. Loss of hearing is often the leading cause of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a side effect of hearing decline. When a person’s hearing changes, it is still unclear why tinnitus occurs. The current theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.
Each and every day you come across thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There is talking, music, car horns, and the TV, for example, but those are just the noticeable noises. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are not so noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? The part of your brain in control of hearing gets bewildered. It is possible that the phantom sounds linked with tinnitus are the brain’s way of producing noise for it to interpret because it recognizes it should be there.
Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. It can be linked to severe health problems like:
- Head or neck tumors
- A reaction to medication
- High blood pressure
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Poor circulation
- Turbulent blood flow
- Head or neck trauma
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Meniere’s disease
Any of these can trigger tinnitus. 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 trying to find other ways of dealing with it.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
You can decide what to do about it after you determine why you have it. In some cases, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is the cause of your tinnitus, you need to generate some. A sound as simple as a fan running in the background might create enough noise to shut off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is made specifically for this purpose. They imitate soothing natural sounds like falling rain or ocean waves. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids also work. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer generated by the brain.
A combination of tricks works the best for the majority of people. For instance, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If the tinnitus is more severe and soft sounds don’t work there are also medications that you can get. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can silence this noise.
Manage You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
It can also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Start by determining what the triggers are. Write down in a journal what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Did you just drink a soda or a cup of coffee?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
The more specific your information, the faster you’ll notice the patterns that could 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. Protect your hearing as much as you can by:
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise also. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.