Whether you hear it occasionally or it’s with your all day and night, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Maybe annoying isn’t the right word. How about frustrating or makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk irritating? However, you choose to describe that sound that you can’t seem to turn off, it’s a problem. What can you do, though? How can you stop that ringing in your ears?
Know What Tinnitus Is and Why You Have It
Start by learning more about the condition that is causing the ringing, buzzing, clicking or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences tinnitus, the medical name for that ringing, to some degree but why?
Tinnitus itself is not a condition but a symptom of something else. For many, that something else is hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common side effect of hearing decline. It’s not really clear why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing. The current theory is the brain creates the noise to fill a void.
You encounter thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of sounds each day. There is talking, music, car horns, and the TV, for example, but those are just the noticeable noises. How about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air coming through a vent. You don’t really hear these sounds, but that’s only because your brain decides you don’t need to.
The point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Now, what happens if you turn half of those sounds off? The part of your brain responsible for hearing gets confused. It is possible that the phantom sounds associated with tinnitus are its way of creating noise for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.
Hearing loss isn’t the only possible cause of tinnitus, though. It can be attributed to severe health problems like:
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
- Head or neck trauma
- Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
- Head or neck tumors
- High blood pressure
- Turbulent blood flow
- Poor circulation
- A reaction to medication
Any of these things can cause tinnitus. You might experience the ringing even though you hear fine or after an injury or accident. It’s important to get checked out by a doctor to find out why you have tinnitus before looking for ways to get rid of it.
What to Do About Tinnitus?
Once you know why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. Sometimes the only thing that works is to give the brain what it wants. If tinnitus is due to the lack of sound, create some. It doesn’t have to be much, something as simple as a fan running in the background might generate enough noise to turn off the ringing.
There is also technology designed just for this purpose such as white noise machines. They simulate a natural sound that is soothing like the ocean waves or rain falling. Some come with pillow speakers, so you hear the music as you sleep. Masking machines are similar, but they deliver a white suppression noise instead of a kind of like a soft buzzing.
Hearing aids also do the trick. With quality hearing aids, you are turning back on the sounds the brain is looking for like the AC running. Hearing aids normalize your hearing enough that the brain no longer needs to create phantom noise.
For most people, the answer is a combination of tricks. You might wear hearing aids during the day and use a white noise machine at night, for instance.
There are also medications available if soft sounds are not effective or if the tinnitus is severe. Certain antidepressants can quiet this noise, for example, such as Xanax.
Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your Tinnitus
Making a few lifestyle changes will help, too. Start by determining if there are triggers. Keep a diary and make a note of what’s going on when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:
- What did you just eat?
- Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
- Did you just have a cup of coffee or soda?
- Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
- Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?
The more precise your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that might be triggering the ringing. Stress can also be responsible, so look for ways to relax like exercise, meditation or even biofeedback.
An Ounce of Prevention
The best way to get rid of tinnitus is to prevent it in the first place. Start by doing everything possible to protect your hearing like:
- Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
- Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
- Turning the volume down on everything
- Taking care of your cardiovascular system
That means eat right, get plenty of exercise and take high blood pressure medication if it’s prescribed. Finally, get regular ear exams to rule out treatable problems that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.