Bright Audiology - Sanford, NC

Woman suffering from ringing in her ears.

Whether or not it’s only with you periodically or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears is annoying. There might be a more suitable word than annoying. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating? That sound that you can’t turn off is an issue no matter how you choose to describe it. Can anything be done? Is even possible to prevent that ringing in your ears?

What is Tinnitus And Why do You Have it?

Begin 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 suffers from 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. Loss of hearing is often the leading cause of tinnitus. Hearing decline commonly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When a person’s hearing changes, it is still not clear why tinnitus happens. The current theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.

You encounter thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of sounds every single day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are noises you don’t even notice. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less noticeable. These sorts of sound are not generally heard because the brain decides you don’t really need to hear them.

It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. Turn half those sounds off and how would the brain react? Confusion takes place in the portion of the brain that hears sound. Your brain realizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it creates the noises connected with tinnitus to compensate.

Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. Severe health issues can also be the cause, such as:

  • A reaction to medication
  • Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Turbulent blood flow
  • Head or neck tumors
  • High blood pressure

Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you could experience this ringing. Before looking for other methods of dealing with it, you should see a doctor to have a hearing exam.

What Can be Done About Tinnitus?

You can figure out what to do about it after you determine why you have it. The only thing that works, in many cases, is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is the cause of your tinnitus, you need to generate some. The ringing might be able to be turned off by something as basic as a fan running in the background.

A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is made specifically for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are calming natural sounds that these devices simulate. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.

Another thing that also works is hearing aids. 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. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this approach.

There are also medications that you can get if soft sounds are not working or if the tinnitus is severe. Medications such as Xanax and possibly other antidepressants can quite this noise.

Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus

It will also be helpful if you make a few lifestyle modifications. A good starting place is identifying what triggers your tinnitus. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a log. Be specific:

  • Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
  • What did you just eat?
  • Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
  • Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
  • Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?

Be very accurate when you record the information and pretty soon you will see the patterns which trigger the ringing. Stress can also be the cause, so look for ways to relax like exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.

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:

  • Using ear protection when around loud noises
  • Turning the volume down on everything
  • Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
  • Taking care of your cardiovascular system

If you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Eat right and exercise as well. To eliminate treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.

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