HEARING TIPS

The Ultimate Checklist to Tackle Tinnitus

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

Over 45 million people in this country are affected by tinnitus 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 always clear why certain people get tinnitus. Discovering ways to manage it is the secret to living with it, for most. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a great place to begin.

Learning About Tinnitus

About one in five people have tinnitus and can hear noises that no one else can hear. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound caused by an inherent medical issue. In other words, it’s a symptom, not a sickness itself.

Hearing loss is the biggest reason people develop tinnitus. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. A lot of the time, your mind works to interpret the sound you hear and then determines if you need to know about it. All the sound around you is transformed by the ear into electrical signals but before that, it’s just pressure waves. 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. Because it’s not crucial, 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.

There are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret when someone suffers from hearing loss. The signals never arrive 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.

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Clicking
  • Roaring
  • Hissing
  • Ringing
  • Buzzing

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

Loss of hearing is not the only reason you could have tinnitus. Other possible factors include:

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

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

Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend

Like with most things, prevention is how you avert a problem. Protecting your ears reduces your chance of hearing loss later in life. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

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

Get your hearing checked every few years, also. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle adjustments to prevent further damage.

If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms

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

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

Take a close look at your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? Did you, for example:

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

If the answer is yes to any of those situations, chances are the tinnitus is short-term.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better

Having an ear exam would be the next thing to do. Your physician will look for possible causes of the tinnitus like:

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

Here are some particular medications that could cause this issue too:

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

Making a change might clear up the tinnitus.

You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other obvious cause. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can minimize the ringing and better your situation.

Treating Tinnitus

Because tinnitus isn’t an illness, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step is to treat the cause. If you have high blood pressure, medication will bring it down, and the tinnitus should disappear.

For some people, the only answer is to live with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to suppress it. A useful tool is a white noise machine. 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.

Tinnitus retraining is another method. You wear a device that produces a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can teach you not to focus on it.

Also, staying away from tinnitus triggers is important. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are not the same for everyone. Write down everything before the ringing began.

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

The diary will help you to find patterns. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you had a double espresso each time, you know to get 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 minimize its impact. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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