Photo of man tackling tinnitus metaphorically when he's really tackling a quarterback.

Over 45 million people in US 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 always obvious why some 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 begin.

Understanding Tinnitus

About one in five people are walking around hearing noises that no one else can hear because they have tinnitus. The perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical issue is the medical description of tinnitus. In other words, it’s a symptom, not a sickness itself.

The most common reason people develop tinnitus is hearing loss. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. Most of the time, your brain works to translate the sound you hear and then decides if you need to know about it. For example, your someone talking to you is just sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical impulses. The electrical signals are translated into words you can comprehend by the brain.

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, as an example. You can feel it, but the brain masks the sound of it passing by your ears because it’s not essential that you hear it. If you were able to listen to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.

When someone suffers from certain types of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The signals never come due to injury but the brain still waits for them. When that occurs, the brain may try to produce a sound of its own to fill that space.

Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:

  • Ringing
  • Hissing
  • Clicking
  • Roaring
  • Buzzing

It might be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom noise.

There are other reasons besides hearing loss you might have tinnitus. Here are some other potential factors:

  • Loud noises near you
  • Ear bone changes
  • Neck injury
  • Earwax build up
  • Tumor in the head or neck
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood flow in the neck
  • Medication
  • TMJ disorder
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Head injury
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Malformed capillaries

Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been connected to tinnitus and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other complications 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:

  • If you have an ear infection, see a doctor.
  • When you’re at work or at home reduce long term exposure to loud noises.
  • Spending less time using headphones or earbuds.

Every few years get your hearing examined, also. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss problem.

If You do Hear The Ringing

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.

Find out if the sound goes away after a while if you refrain from 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
  • Attend a party
  • Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
  • Go to a concert

The tinnitus is most likely short-term if you answered yes to any of these situations.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away

Getting an ear exam would be the next step. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:

  • Stress levels
  • Ear damage
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Ear wax

Specific medication could cause this issue too such as:

  • Quinine medications
  • Cancer Meds
  • Aspirin
  • Antibiotics
  • Water pills
  • Antidepressants

The tinnitus may clear up if you make a change.

If there is no apparent cause, then the doctor can order a hearing examination, or you can schedule one yourself. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can lessen the ringing and improve your situation.

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Because tinnitus isn’t an illness, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step is to treat the cause. The tinnitus should go away once you take the correct medication if you have high blood pressure.

For some people, the only answer is to live with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to suppress it. White noise machines can be useful. The ringing stops when the white noise takes the place of the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.

Another approach is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that creates a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. You can use this method to learn not to pay attention to it.

You will also need to find ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. Write down everything before the ringing started.

  • 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 known trigger.

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 learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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