Whether or not it’s only with you occasionally or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. Perhaps annoying isn’t the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating might fit better. No matter how you decide to describe that noise that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. What can you do, though? How can you stop that ringing in your ears?
Know What Tinnitus Is And Why You Have it
Begin by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for the clicking, ringing, 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 is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. Loss of hearing is often the leading cause of tinnitus. Hearing decline regularly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really clear why tinnitus occurs when there is a decline in a person’s hearing. That the brain is producing the sound to fill the void is the current theory.
You encounter thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds each 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 not as obvious. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.
The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. If half of those sounds are switched off, what happens then? Confusion happens in the part of the brain that hears sound. It might be possible that the phantom noises that come with tinnitus are its way of creating sound for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck tumors
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Meniere’s disease
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck trauma
- Poor circulation
Tinnitus can be triggered by any of these. You might experience the ringing even though you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. 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 know why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. In some cases, the only thing that helps is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is due to the lack of sound, generate some. Something as simple as a fan running in the background could produce enough sound to turn off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
There is also technology made just for this purpose such as white noise machines. They imitate a natural sound that is calming like the ocean waves or rain falling. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound when you sleep.
Hearing aids will also work. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is looking for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. The brain no longer needs to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
For many people, the solution is a combination of tricks. For example, you might use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that could help. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can silence this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It can also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle changes. A good starting point is determining what triggers your tinnitus. Keep a journal and make a note of what’s happening when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific sound 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 notice the patterns which trigger the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so try to find ways to relax like exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus from the start. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Using ear protection when you’re going to be around loud noises
That means eat right, get lots of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.