Regardless of whether you hear it periodically or it’s with you all day and night, the ringing of tinnitus is annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating? Regardless of the description, that noise that you can’t turn off is a big problem in your life. Can anything be done? Can that ringing really be stopped?
What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?
Start by learning more about the condition that is causing the clicking, ringing, 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 per se is not a condition but a sign of something else. For many people, that something else is loss of hearing. Hearing decline frequently comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When a person’s hearing changes, it is still unclear why tinnitus occurs. Presently the theory is that the brain is filling the void by generating noise.
Thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds are encountered each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are sounds you don’t even notice. How 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 point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Switch half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? The portion of your brain that deals with hearing becomes confounded. It may generate the phantom tinnitus noises to fill in the blanks because it recognizes sound should be there.
Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. It can be linked to severe health issues like:
- High blood pressure
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Poor circulation
- A reaction to medication
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck trauma
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Head or neck tumors
Tinnitus can be triggered by any of these things. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you might experience this ringing. Before you look for other ways to get rid of it, you should see a doctor to get a hearing exam.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
Once you discover why you have it, you can determine what to do about it. In some cases, the only thing that works is to give the brain what it wants. You have to produce some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. Something as basic as a fan running in the background could create enough sound to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
Technology such as a white noise generator is designed just for this purpose. They simulate soothing natural sounds like falling rain or ocean waves. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Investing in hearing aids is also a good solution. The sounds the brain is listening for can be turned up using quality hearing aids. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain doesn’t need to produce phantom noise.
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.
There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not effective or if the tinnitus is more severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle modifications will help, too. Start by determining if there are triggers. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a journal. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a particular sound that is triggering it?
The more precise your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that might be inducing 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 protect against it from the start. Start by doing everything you can to protect your hearing like:
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- 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 rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.