Coastal Hearing Aid Center - Encinitas, CA

Woman suffering from ringing in her ears.

Whether or not you only hear it sometimes or you hear it all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus in your ears can be annoying. There might be a more appropriate word than annoying. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating may fit better. No matter what the description, that noise that you can’t turn off is a big problem in your life. So what can be done? Is even possible to prevent that ringing in your ears?

Know Why You Have Tinnitus And Exactly What it is

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 suffers from tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?

Tinnitus itself is not a condition but a symptom of something else. That something else is loss of hearing for many. Tinnitus is a typical result of hearing decline. Why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not well understood. Presently the theory is that the brain is filling the void by generating noise.

You experience 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 sounds you don’t even notice. The sound of air coming through a vent or the rotating blades of a ceiling fan are less noticeable. Your brain decides you don’t really need to hear these sounds.

The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Switch half those sounds off and how would the brain respond? The part of your brain responsible for hearing becomes bewildered. Your brain recognizes the sound should be there so it’s possible that it generates the noises associated with tinnitus to compensate.

Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. It can be attributed to severe health issues like:

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

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. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before trying to find another way of dealing with it.

What to do About Tinnitus

Once you identify 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 generate some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. Something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t have to be much.

Technology such as a white noise generator is designed just for this purpose. Ocean waves or falling rain are soothing natural sounds that these devices simulate. Some include pillow speakers, so you hear the sound as you sleep.

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 has no further need to generate phantom noise.

For many 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 strategy.

There are also medications available if soft sounds are not working or if the tinnitus is more severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, Xanax.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus

It can also help if you make a few lifestyle modifications. Begin by determining what the triggers are. When the tinnitus starts, note what’s going on and write it down in a log. Be specific:

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

Be very precise when you record the information and pretty soon you will notice the patterns that trigger the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so look for ways to relax like 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:

  • Using ear protection when around loud noises
  • Turning down the volume on everything
  • Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
  • 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 which increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes along with it.

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