Over 45 million people in this country are impacted by tinnitus according to the National Tinnitus Association. If you have it, rest assured you are not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not necessarily obvious why certain people get tinnitus. For many, the trick to living with it is to come up with ways to deal with it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a good place to start.
Getting to Know Tinnitus
About one in five people have tinnitus and can hear noises that no one else can. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical issue. In other words, it’s a symptom, not a sickness itself.
The most common reason people develop tinnitus is loss of hearing. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. A lot of the time, your mind works to interpret the sound you hear and then decides if you need to know about it. As an example, your spouse talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical impulses. The brain transforms the electrical impulses into words that you can understand.
Sound is everywhere around you, but you don’t “hear” it all. If the brain doesn’t think a sound is important to you, it filters it out. You might not hear the wind blowing, for instance. Because it’s not crucial, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. If you were capable of listening to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.
When someone suffers from certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret. The signals never arrive due to injury but the brain still expects them. The brain might attempt to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that happens.
For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:
The phantom noise may be high pitched, low pitched, loud or soft.
There are other reasons besides loss of hearing you could have tinnitus. Other possible factors include:
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Neck injury
- Head injury
- TMJ disorder
- Tumor in the head or neck
- High blood pressure
- Malformed capillaries
- Acoustic neuroma
- Ear bone changes
- Loud noises near you
- Earwax accumulation
- Meniere’s disease
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and can cause problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.
Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention
Like with most things, prevention is how you avoid a problem. Reducing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with safeguarding your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:
- If you have an ear infection, consult a doctor.
- Spending less time wearing headphones or earbuds.
- Avoiding long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
Every few years have your hearing examined, also. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle adjustments to lessen further damage.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing indicates you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t help you understand why you have it or how you got it. A little trial and error can help you understand more.
Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds altogether and see if the sound goes away after a while.
Take a close look at your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? For example, did you:
- Go to a concert
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Attend a party
- Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
If the answer is yes to any of those scenarios, it’s likely the tinnitus is temporary.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
The next thing to do would be to get an ear exam. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:
- Ear wax
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
Here are some particular medications which could cause this problem too:
- Quinine medications
- Cancer Meds
- Water pills
The tinnitus may clear up if you make a change.
You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other obvious cause. Hearing aids can better your situation and lessen the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
Since tinnitus isn’t a disease, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step is to treat the cause. The tinnitus should disappear once you take the correct medication if you have high blood pressure.
For some, the only solution is to live with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to control it. A helpful device is a white noise machine. They create the noise the brain is waiting for and the ringing goes away. You can also get the same result from a fan or dehumidifier.
Another strategy is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that creates a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can teach you not to focus on it.
You will also need to determine ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. They are not the same for each person, so start keeping a diary. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything right before you heard the ringing.
- What did you eat or drink?
- What were you doing?
- What sound did you hear?
The diary will allow you to track patterns. You would know to order something else if you had a double espresso each time because caffeine is a well known trigger.
Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best hope is finding a way to eliminate it or at least reduce its impact. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.