Tinnitus is a condition that impacts more than 45 million people in the US, according to the National Tinnitus Association. If you have it, rest assured you are not alone. It’s generally not clear why people get tinnitus and there is no cure. Discovering ways to deal with it is the secret to living with it, for many. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a great place to start.
About one in five people are walking around hearing sounds that no one else can hear because they have tinnitus. Medically, tinnitus is defined as the perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical issue. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
Hearing loss is the biggest reason people get tinnitus. Think of it as the brain’s method of filling in some gaps. Your brain makes the decision as to what it needs to know after interpreting the sound it hears. As an example, your someone talking to you is just sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical signals. The electrical impulses are translated into words you can understand by the brain.
You don’t actually “hear” all the sound that is around you. If the brain doesn’t think a sound is important to you, it filters it out. As an example, you don’t always hear the wind blowing. Because it’s not essential, 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 develops certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret. The signals never arrive because of injury but the brain still expects them. The brain may try 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.
Loss of hearing is not the only reason you could have tinnitus. Here are some other possible factors:
- Neck injury
- Earwax accumulation
- Acoustic neuroma
- Head injury
- Ear bone changes
- High blood pressure
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Meniere’s disease
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Loud noises around you
- Malformed capillaries
- TMJ disorder
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other problems can occur.
Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend
Prevention is how you prevent an issue as with most things. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Tips to protect your ear health include:
- Consulting a doctor if you have an ear infection.
- When you’re at work or at home reduce long term exposure to loud noises.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend using headphones or earbuds.
Get your hearing checked every few years, also. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss issue.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing doesn’t tell you how or why you got tinnitus, but it does tell you that you have it. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
See if the sound goes away after a while if you avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.
Take a close look at your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing began? Did you, for instance:
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Go to a concert
- Work or sit next to an unusually loud noise
- Attend a party
The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these scenarios.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away
The next step would be to have an ear exam. Your physician will look for possible causes of the tinnitus like:
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
Here are some particular medications which may cause this issue too:
- Quinine medications
- Water pills
- Cancer Meds
Making a change could clear up the tinnitus.
You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other apparent cause. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can reduce the ringing and improve your situation.
Because tinnitus is a side effect and not a disease, treating the cause is the first step. The tinnitus should go away once you take the proper medication if you have high blood pressure.
For some people, the only answer is to deal with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to suppress it. White noise machines can be helpful. They create the noise the brain is waiting for and the ringing stops. You can also use a fan, humidifier or dehumidifier to get the result.
Another strategy is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that delivers a tone to hide the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can teach you not to focus on it.
Also, avoiding tinnitus triggers is important. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. Write down everything before the ringing began.
- What did you eat or drink?
- What sound did you hear?
- What were you doing?
Tracking patterns is possible using this method. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you had a double espresso each time, you know to order something else in the future.
Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best chance is finding a way to eliminate it or at least lessen its impact. To find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.