Whether you hear it on occasion or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. There might be a more suitable word than annoying. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating might fit better. No matter what the description, that noise that you can’t get rid of is a serious issue in your life. So what can be done? Can that ringing really be prevented?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
Start 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 name for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. That something else is loss of hearing for many people. Hearing loss often comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really clear why tinnitus appears when there is a decline in a person’s hearing. That the brain is creating the sound to fill the void is the current theory.
You encounter thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. There is conversing, music, car horns, and the TV, as an example, but those are only the obvious noises. What about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air coming into a vent. 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? It becomes confusing for the part of your brain that hears sound. It is possible that the phantom sounds that come with tinnitus are the brains way of producing sound for it to interpret because it recognizes it should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. It can be linked to severe health issues like:
- Meniere’s disease
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Head or neck tumors
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- A reaction to medication
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
Any of these can trigger tinnitus. Even though you can hear fine, after an injury or accident, you might 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 need to understand why you have it before you can begin to figure out what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants may be the only thing that helps. You need to generate some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. It doesn’t need to be much, something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough sound to shut off the ringing.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is made just for this purpose. Ocean waves or rain falling are calming natural sounds that these devices simulate. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.
Another thing that also works is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is looking for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain no longer needs to produce phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for the majority of people. For instance, you could 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. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Handle You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Start by determining if there are triggers. Keep a diary and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- What did you just eat?
Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will notice the patterns that trigger the ringing. You should find ways to relax such as biofeedback, exercise, and meditation because stress can also be responsible.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus in the first place is the best way to deal with it. Begin by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
That means 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 that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.