It doesn’t matter if you hear it on occasion or it’s with you all day and night, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Annoying may not be the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating and downright frustrating may be better. However you choose to describe that noise that you can’t turn off, it’s an issue. So what can be done? Can that ringing actually be prevented?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is it?
Begin 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 suffers from tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus itself is not a condition but a sign of something else. That something else is loss of hearing for many people. Hearing decline commonly comes along with tinnitus as a side effect. It’s not really evident why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing. Presently the theory is that the brain is filling the void by creating noise.
You come across thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds each day. There are the obvious sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are sounds you don’t notice. What about the spinning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing 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. So what happens if you shut half of those sounds off? The part of your brain that deals with hearing becomes confused. It might produce the phantom tinnitus noises to compensate because it recognizes sound should be there.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- High blood pressure
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck tumors
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Turbulent blood flow
- Head or neck trauma
- A reaction to medication
- Poor circulation
- Meniere’s disease
Tinnitus can be caused by any of these. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. It’s important to get get a hearing exam to determine why you have tinnitus before searching for ways to deal with it.
What to do About Tinnitus
When you find out why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that works. If tinnitus is caused by the lack of sound, generate some. The ringing may be able to be shut off by something as simple as a fan running in the background.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is designed specifically for this purpose. They simulate relaxing natural sounds such as rain falling or ocean waves. Some have pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.
Getting hearing aids is also a good option. 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 no longer needs to create phantom noise.
A combination of tricks works best for the majority of people. For example, 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 more severe, there are medications that could help. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
It will also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. A good starting place is determining what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more accurate your information, the faster you’ll notice the patterns that might be triggering the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so try to find ways to relax including exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Preventing tinnitus in the first place is the best way to deal with it. Protect your hearing as much as you can by:
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.