The ringing of tinnitus can be annoying whether you only hear it occasionally or all of the time. Annoying may not be the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating may fit better. Whatever the description, that noise that you can’t get rid of is a serious issue in your life. What can you do, though? Can that ringing actually be stopped?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
Begin by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for 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 term for that ringing. But why?
Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. That something else is hearing loss for many people. Hearing decline regularly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. When there is a change in a person’s hearing, it is still not clear why tinnitus occurs. That the brain is generating the noise to fill the void is the present theory.
You experience thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of sounds each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are noises you don’t even notice. The sound of air blowing through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are not as noticeable. 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 turn half of those sounds off? It becomes bewildering for the part of your brain that hears sound. It might be possible that the phantom noises linked with tinnitus are the brains way of producing sound for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, though. Severe health issues can also be the cause, like:
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Meniere’s disease
- High blood pressure
- A reaction to medication
- Head or neck tumors
- Poor circulation
- Head or neck trauma
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
Any of these can cause tinnitus. You might experience the ringing even though you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. Before looking for other ways to get rid of it, you should see a doctor for a hearing exam.
Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?
Once you find out why you have it, you can determine what to do about it. The only thing that helps, in many cases, is to give the brain what it wants. You need to make some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. A sound as basic as a fan running in the background could produce enough noise to turn off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
A white noise generator is a kind of technology that is made just for this purpose. They imitate a natural sound that is relaxing like the ocean waves or falling rain. You can hear the sound when you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.
Hearing aids will also do the trick. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is listening for like the AC running. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain no longer needs to generate phantom noise.
For the majority of people, the answer is a combination of tricks. For example, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.
There are also medications available if soft sounds are not successful or if the tinnitus is more severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.
Manage You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes
It will also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Start by determining what the triggers are. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s happening and write it down in a log. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
- Is there a particular noise that is triggering it?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
The more accurate your information, the faster you’ll notice the patterns that could be inducing the ringing. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be the cause.
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:
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Turning the volume down on everything
That means you have to eat healthily, get plenty of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.