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

Over 45 million people in US are affected 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 absolutely obvious why certain people get tinnitus. For most, the trick to living with it is to find ways to manage it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a good place to start.

Learning About Tinnitus

About one in five people are living everyday 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 a sickness itself.

The most prevalent reason people develop tinnitus is hearing loss. Think of it as the brain’s way of filling in some gaps. A lot of the time, your mind works to translate the sound you hear and then decides if you need to know about it. All the sound around you is converted by the ear into electrical signals but before that, it’s only pressure waves. The electrical signals are translated into words you can comprehend by the brain.

Sound is all around you, but you don’t “hear” it all. The brain filters out the sound it doesn’t think is important to you. 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. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.

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

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Clicking
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing
  • Roaring
  • Ringing

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

Hearing loss is not the only reason you might have tinnitus. Here are some other possible factors:

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

Although physically harmless, Anxiety and depression have been connected to tinnitus and can create complications like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.

Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention

Prevention is how you avoid an issue like with most things. Decreasing your chances of hearing loss later in life starts with safeguarding your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

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

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 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.

See if the sound stops after a while if you refrain from wearing headphones or earbuds.

Evaluate your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing began? For example, did you:

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

If the answer is yes to any of those scenarios, it’s likely the tinnitus is short-term.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away

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

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

Specific medication might cause this issue too such as:

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

Making a change could get rid of the tinnitus.

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

Treating Tinnitus

Because tinnitus is a side effect and not a disease, treating the cause is the first step. The tinnitus should disappear once you take the correct medication if you have high blood pressure.

Finding a way to control tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. White noise machines are helpful. The ringing stops when the white noise replaces the sound the brain is missing. You can also use a fan, humidifier or dehumidifier to get the same effect.

Tinnitus retraining is another approach. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a device which creates similar tones. You can use this technique to learn not to pay attention to it.

You will also need to determine ways to stay away from tinnitus triggers. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are different for everyone. Write down everything before the ringing began.

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

Tracking patterns is possible in this way. Caffeine is a well-known trigger, so if you had a double espresso each time, you know to get something else next time.

Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so discovering ways to minimize 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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