Whether it’s only with you once in a while or all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. There may be a more appropriate word than annoying. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating might fit better. That sound that you can’t turn off is a problem however you decide to describe it. What can you do, though? Can that ringing actually be stopped?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is 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 term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus per se is not a condition but a sign of something else. Hearing loss is often the leading cause of tinnitus. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really clear why tinnitus happens when there is a decline in a person’s hearing. That the brain is creating the sound to fill the void is the present theory.
You encounter thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of sounds every day. Some obvious examples are car horns, the radio, and people talking. The sound of air coming through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less obvious. You don’t normally hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? Confusion occurs in the portion of the brain that hears sound. It may create the phantom tinnitus sounds to fill in the blanks because it recognizes sound should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, such as:
- Head or neck trauma
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
- A reaction to medication
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Poor circulation
Any of these can cause tinnitus. You may get the ringing even though you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. Before searching for other methods of dealing with it, you need to consult a doctor to have a hearing exam.
What to do About Tinnitus
You need to find out why you have it before you can begin to figure out what to do about it. In some cases, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to generate some. A sound as basic as a fan running in the background may create enough noise to switch 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 a natural sound that is calming such as the ocean waves or rain falling. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Another thing that also works 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 created by the brain.
For the majority of people, the answer is a combination of tricks. You could wear hearing aids during the day and use a white noise machine at night, for example.
If the tinnitus is more severe and soft sounds don’t work there are also medications that you can get. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Handle You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
It can also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Determining if there are triggers is a good place to begin. Write down in a journal what’s happening when the tinnitus begins. Be specific:
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more precise your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that might 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 possible by:
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
That means you have to eat right, get lots of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. Lastly, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.