Tinnitus is a condition that impacts more than 45 million people in the US, according to the National Tinnitus Association. Don’t worry, if you have it, you’re not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not absolutely obvious why some people get tinnitus. For most, the trick to living with it is to find ways to deal with it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a great place to start.
Getting to Know Tinnitus
About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear noises that no one else can hear. The perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical problem 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. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. Most of the time, your mind works to interpret the sound you hear and then determines if you need to know about it. For example, your someone talking to you is just sound waves until the inner ear converts 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 essential, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.
When someone suffers from certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The brain expects them, but due to damage in the inner ear, they never arrive. When that takes place, the brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill that space.
For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:
The phantom noise might be high pitched, low pitched, loud or soft.
There are other reasons besides hearing loss you could have tinnitus. Here are some other potential factors:
- Malformed capillaries
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Ear bone changes
- Earwax accumulation
- Head injury
- TMJ disorder
- Meniere’s disease
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Acoustic neuroma
- Neck injury
- High blood pressure
- Loud noises near you
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other problems can occur.
Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention
Prevention is how you prevent an issue like with most things. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Check out these tips to protect your ears:
- Reducing long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
- Consulting a doctor if you have an ear infection.
- Spending less time using headphones or earbuds.
Every few years get your hearing examined, too. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss problem.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing means you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t tell you why you have it or how you got it. A little trial and error can help you understand more.
Find out if the sound goes away after a while if you refrain from wearing headphones or earbuds.
Assess your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing began? For instance, did you:
- Attend a party
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Go to a concert
- Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
If the answer is yes to any of those scenarios, chances are the tinnitus is short-term.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
The next thing to do would be to have an ear exam. Some possible causes your physician will look for are:
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
Certain medication may cause this problem too like:
- Cancer Meds
- Quinine medications
- Water pills
Making a change could clear up the tinnitus.
If there is no apparent cause, then the doctor can order a hearing test, or you can schedule one on your own. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can lessen the ringing and improve your situation.
Because tinnitus is a side effect and not an illness, treating the cause would be the first step. The tinnitus should disappear 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 discovering ways to control it. White noise machines are useful. The ringing stops when the white noise replaces the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same result from a fan or dehumidifier.
Another strategy is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that produces a tone to hide the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can teach you not to focus on it.
Also, avoiding tinnitus triggers is important. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are not the same for everyone. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything just 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. 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 chance 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.