The ringing of tinnitus can be annoying whether you just hear it occasionally or all of the time. Maybe annoying isn’t the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? 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 really be stopped?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Begin by learning more about the condition that is causing the buzzing, ringing, clicking 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 primary cause of tinnitus. Hearing loss often comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When a person’s hearing changes, it is still not clear why tinnitus happens. Currently, the theory is that the brain is filling the void by creating noise.
Thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, for example, but those are just the obvious noises. The sound of air coming through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are not as noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Shut half those sounds off and how would the brain act in response? The part of your brain in charge of hearing becomes bewildered. Your brain recognizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it creates the noises associated with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- Poor circulation
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck trauma
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck tumors
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these things. You may experience the ringing despite the fact that you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. It’s important to get get a hearing exam to determine why you’re experiencing tinnitus before looking for ways to deal with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
When you know why you have it, you can determine what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that helps. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to create 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 made just for this purpose. Ocean waves or rain falling are soothing natural sounds that these devices simulate. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Another thing that also works well is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain doesn’t need to generate phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for most people. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this strategy.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that might help. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
It will also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. A good starting point is figuring out what triggers your tinnitus. Write down in a journal what’s taking place when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns that trigger the ringing. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to get rid of tinnitus is to prevent it in the first place. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. To eliminate treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.