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. Rest assured, if you have it, you’re not alone. It’s generally unclear why people get tinnitus and there is no cure. For most, the secret to living with it is to find ways to manage it. An excellent place to begin to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.

Understanding Tinnitus

About one in five people have tinnitus and can hear sounds that no one else can. The perception of a phantom sound due to an underlying medical problem is the medical definition of tinnitus. 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 method of filling in some gaps. 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 translates 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 capable of listening to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.

There are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret when someone suffers from hearing loss. The signals never arrive because of damage but the brain still waits for them. When that happens, the brain may try to produce a sound of its own to fill that space.

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Hissing
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Ringing
  • Roaring

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

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

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

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

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. Tips to protect your hearing health include:

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

Every few years get your hearing examined, also. The test not only alerts you to a hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle adjustments to lessen 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 after a while.

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

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

If the answer is yes to any of those situations, it’s likely the tinnitus is temporary.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away

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

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

Certain medication could cause this problem too such as:

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

The tinnitus might clear up if you make a change.

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

Treating Tinnitus

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

For some, the only answer is to live with the tinnitus, which means finding ways to suppress it. White noise machines can be helpful. They generate the noise the brain is missing and the ringing stops. You can also use a fan, humidifier or dehumidifier to get the result.

Another strategy is tinnitus retraining. You wear a device that creates a tone to hide the frequencies of the tinnitus. You can use this method to learn not to pay attention to it.

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

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

The diary will help you to find patterns. You would know to order something else if you had a double espresso each time because caffeine is a well known trigger.

Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so discovering ways to minimize its impact or get rid of it is your best hope. To find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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