Whether you only hear it from time to time or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. Perhaps annoying isn’t the right word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating and downright frustrating might be better. That noise that you can’t get rid of is a problem however you decide to describe it. Can anything be done? How can you stop that ringing in your ears?
Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly Causes it?
Begin by learning 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 experiences 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. For many, that something else is loss of hearing. Tinnitus is a common side effect of hearing decline. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. At this time the theory is that the brain is filling the void by producing noise.
Every day you encounter thousands, possibly even hundreds of thousands of sounds. There are the obvious sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are noises you don’t even notice. The sound of air coming through a vent or the spinning blades of a ceiling fan are less obvious. You don’t really hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. So what happens if you shut half of those sounds off? It becomes perplexing for the portion of your brain that hears sound. Your brain realizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it generates the noises associated with tinnitus to fill in the blanks.
There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. It can be connected to severe health problems like:
- Turbulent blood flow
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Meniere’s disease
- Head or neck trauma
- A reaction to medication
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- High blood pressure
- Head or neck tumors
- Poor circulation
Any of these can trigger tinnitus. You might experience the ringing even though you hear fine or possibly after an injury or accident. It’s important to get get a hearing exam to determine why you have tinnitus before searching for ways to get rid of it.
What Can be Done About Tinnitus?
You can figure out what to do about it when you determine why you have it. Giving the brain what it wants might be the only thing that works. If tinnitus is caused by the lack of sound, create some. A sound as basic as a fan running in the background may create enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.
There is also technology made specifically for this purpose such as white noise machines. They simulate a natural sound that is calming such as the ocean waves or rain falling. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.
Another thing that also works well is hearing aids. You can turn up the sounds that your brain is listening for, like the AC running, with quality hearing aids. The brain has no further need to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.
For the majority of people, the answer is a combination of tricks. Using a white noise generator at night and wearing hearing aids during the day are examples of this approach.
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 can also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Begin by determining if there are triggers. Keep a journal and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
- Is there a specific sound that is triggering it?
- What did you just eat?
- Did you just have a soda or a cup of coffee?
You will begin to notice the patterns that trigger the ringing if you record the information very precisely. Stress can also be the cause, so try to find ways to relax such as exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
Take the correct steps to prevent tinnitus from the beginning. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:
- Turning down the volume on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Using ear protection when around loud noises
That means eat healthily, get lots of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. To rule out treatable problems which increase your risk of hearing loss and tinnitus, schedule a hearing exam with a hearing professional.