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 obvious why certain people get tinnitus. For most, the secret to living with it is to find ways to manage it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a good place to begin.
Learning About Tinnitus
About one in five people are living everyday hearing sounds that no one else can hear because they have tinnitus. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical issue. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
The most common reason people get tinnitus is hearing loss. The brain is attempting to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. A lot of the time, your brain 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 brain transforms the electrical signals into words that you can comprehend.
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. For instance, you don’t always hear the wind blowing. 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 brain waits for them, but due to injury in the inner ear, they never arrive. The brain might try to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that occurs.
Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:
It may be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom noise.
Hearing loss is not the only reason you could have tinnitus. Here are some other potential factors:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Earwax build up
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- Meniere’s disease
- Head injury
- Malformed capillaries
- Ear bone changes
- Tumor in the head or neck
- High blood pressure
- TMJ disorder
- Neck injury
- Loud noises around you
Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been linked to tinnitus and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other complications can occur.
Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend
Prevention is how you avoid a problem like with most things. Reducing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with safeguarding your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:
- Seeing a doctor if you have an ear infection.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend wearing headphones or earbuds.
- When you’re at work or at home avoid long term exposure to loud noises.
Every few years get your hearing checked, too. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it allows 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. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
Abstain from wearing headphones or earbuds altogether and see if the sound stops after a while.
Take a close look at your noise exposure. The night before the ringing began were you around loud noise? For example, did you:
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Attend a party
- Go to a concert
- Work or sit next to an unusually loud noise
The tinnitus is most likely short-term if you answered yes to any of these situations.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away
The next thing to do would be to get an ear exam. Some potential causes your physician will look for are:
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
- Stress levels
Specific medication could cause this issue too such as:
- Cancer Meds
- Quinine medications
- Water pills
Making a change might clear up the tinnitus.
If there is no evident cause, then the doctor can order a hearing examination, or you can schedule one yourself. Hearing aids can improve your situation and minimize the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
Since tinnitus is a side effect and not a disease, treating the cause would be the first step. The tinnitus should disappear once you take the correct medication if you have high blood pressure.
Finding a way to suppress tinnitus is, for some, the only way to deal with it. White noise machines are useful. The ringing goes away when the white noise takes the place of 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 creates a tone to cover up the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can help you learn not to focus on it.
You will also want to find ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are not the same for everybody. When the tinnitus starts, write down everything right before you heard the ringing.
- What sound did you hear?
- What did you eat or drink?
- What were you doing?
Tracking patterns is possible using this method. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to get something else in the future.
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 find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.