The ringing of tinnitus can be annoying whether or not you only hear it sometimes or all of the time. Maybe annoying isn’t the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating might fit better. That sound that you can’t turn off is a problem no matter how you choose to describe it. So what can be done? Can that ringing really be prevented?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is responsible for the ringing, clicking, buzzing, 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. Hearing loss is often the main cause of tinnitus. Hearing decline commonly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus occurs when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. Currently, the theory is that the brain is filling the void by creating noise.
Each and every day you come across thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are sounds you don’t even notice. What about the rotating of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air coming through a vent. 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 react? Confusion occurs in the portion of the brain that hears sound. Your brain recognizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it generates the noises associated with tinnitus to compensate.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, however. It can be connected to severe health problems like:
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck tumors
- Turbulent blood flow
- High blood pressure
- A reaction to medication
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these things. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. Before you go looking for other ways to get rid of it, you should see a doctor to get a hearing exam.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
You need to understand why you have it before you can start to figure out what to do about it. The only thing that helps, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. You need to make some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. The ringing may be able to be turned off by something as simple as a fan running in the background.
There is also technology made just for this purpose such as white noise machines. Ocean waves or rain falling are relaxing natural sounds which these devices simulate. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Investing in hearing aids is also a good option. The sounds the brain is looking for can be turned up using quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain has no further need to generate phantom noise.
A combination of tricks is most effective for the majority of people. You could use hearing aids during the day and use a white noise machine at night, for example.
There are also medications available if soft sounds are not effective or if the tinnitus is more severe. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Determining if there are triggers is a good place to start. Write down in a journal what’s happening when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
- Are you smoking or drinking alcohol?
- What did you just eat?
Be very specific 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 the cause.
An Ounce of Prevention
The ideal way to get rid of tinnitus is to prevent it from the beginning. Protect your hearing as much as you can by:
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
That means eat healthily, get plenty of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. Lastly, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable issues which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.