Over 45 million people in this country are impacted by tinnitus according to the National Tinnitus Association. If you have it, don’t worry you are not alone. It’s generally not clear why people get tinnitus and there is no cure. Finding ways to manage it is the trick to living with it, for many. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a great place to begin.
Learning About Tinnitus
About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear noises that no one else can. The perception of a phantom sound due to an underlying medical issue is the medical definition of tinnitus. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
The most prevalent reason people develop tinnitus is hearing loss. The brain is trying to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Your brain decides what it needs to know after interpreting the sound it hears. For example, your friend talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear transforms them into electrical impulses. The electrical impulses are converted into words you can understand 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. As an example, you don’t always hear the wind blowing. You can feel it, but the brain masks the sound of it passing by your ears because it’s not crucial that you hear it. If you were able to listen to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.
When someone develops certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The signals never arrive because of injury but the brain still expects them. When that happens, the brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill that space.
Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:
It may be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom sound.
There are other reasons besides hearing loss you might have tinnitus. Other possible causes include:
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Tumor in the head or neck
- High blood pressure
- Neck injury
- Malformed capillaries
- Acoustic neuroma
- TMJ disorder
- Head injury
- Ear bone changes
- Loud noises around you
- Meniere’s disease
- Earwax build up
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been connected to tinnitus and can cause problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.
Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention
Prevention is how you prevent a problem like with most things. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Tips to protect your hearing health include:
- Consulting a doctor if you have an ear infection.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend using headphones or earbuds.
- Reducing long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
Get your hearing examined every few years, too. The test allows you to make lifestyle changes and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss issue.
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.
Abstain from wearing headphones or earbuds altogether and see if the sound goes away over time.
Assess your noise exposure. The night before the ringing began were you around loud noise? Did you, for instance:
- Go to a concert
- Attend a party
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Work or sit next to an unusually loud noise
The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these scenarios.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
Having an ear exam would be the next step. Your physician will look for possible causes of the tinnitus like:
- Ear damage
- Stress levels
- Ear wax
Certain medication might cause this issue too such as:
- Cancer Meds
- Water pills
- Quinine medications
The tinnitus could go away if you make a change.
If there is no apparent cause, then the doctor can order a hearing examination, or you can schedule one on your own. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can minimize the ringing and improve your situation.
Since tinnitus is a side effect and not an illness, treating the cause would be 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 live with the tinnitus, which means looking for ways to suppress it. A useful tool is a white noise machine. They produce 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 approach is tinnitus retraining. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a device which creates similar tones. You can use this strategy to learn not to pay attention to 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 were you doing?
- What sound did you hear?
- What did you eat or drink?
Tracking patterns is possible in this way. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to order something else next time.
Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best hope 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.