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, don’t worry you are not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not always clear why certain people get tinnitus. Finding ways to deal with it is the trick to living with it, for most. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is an excellent place to begin.

Getting to Know 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 problem is the medical description of tinnitus. In other words, it’s a symptom, not an illness itself.

Hearing loss is the most common reason people get tinnitus. The brain is attempting to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Your brain makes the decision as to 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 changes them into electrical signals. The brain transforms the electrical signals into words that you can comprehend.

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 able to listen to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.

There are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret when someone has hearing loss. The signals never come due to injury but the brain still waits for them. When that occurs, the brain may try to create a sound of its own to fill that space.

Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:

  • Ringing
  • Clicking
  • Roaring
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing

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

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

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

Although physically harmless, tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other complications can occur.

Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention

Prevention is how you prevent an issue like with most things. Reducing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with safeguarding your ears now. Tricks to protect your ear health include:

  • When you’re at work or at home avoid long term exposure to loud noises.
  • Reducing the amount of time you spend wearing headphones or earbuds.
  • If you have an ear infection, see a doctor.

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 issue.

If You do Hear The Ringing

Ringing means you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t help you understand why you have it or how you got it. A little trial and error can help you understand more.

Abstain from wearing headphones or earbuds entirely and see if the sound stops over time.

Assess your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? For instance, did you:

  • Go to a concert
  • Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
  • Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
  • Attend a party

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

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better

The next step would be to have an ear exam. Some possible causes your physician will look for are:

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

Certain medication may cause this issue too like:

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

Making a change could clear up the tinnitus.

If there is no evident cause, then the doctor can order a hearing test, or you can schedule one yourself. Hearing aids can better your situation and reduce the ringing, if you do have hearing loss, by using hearing aids.

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 proper medication if you have high blood pressure.

For some, the only answer is to deal with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to control it. A useful tool is a white noise machine. They create the noise the brain is waiting for and the ringing goes away. You can also use a fan, humidifier or dehumidifier to get the result.

Tinnitus retraining is another method. You wear a device that delivers a tone to hide the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can help you learn not to focus on it.

Also, staying away from tinnitus triggers is important. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything just before you heard the ringing.

  • What did you eat or drink?
  • What sound did you hear?
  • What were you doing?

The diary will help you to track patterns. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to get something else next time.

Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so finding ways to reduce its impact or get rid of it is your best chance. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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