Hearing Services of Nashville

Woman suffering from ringing in her ears.

Regardless of whether you hear it from time to time or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. Annoying may not be the best word. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk infuriating and downright frustrating may be better. No matter how you choose to describe that sound that you can’t turn off, it’s a problem. So what can be done? How can you prevent that ringing in your ears?

Know Why You Have Tinnitus And Exactly What it is

Start by learning more about the condition that is responsible for the buzzing, ringing, clicking or roaring you hear. It’s estimated as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population experiences tinnitus, which is the medical term for that ringing. But why?

Tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a condition in and of itself. For many people, that something else is hearing loss. Hearing decline commonly comes with tinnitus as a side effect. Why tinnitus happens when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still unclear. Currently, the theory is that the brain is filling the void by generating noise.

You experience thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of sounds each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone shouting, and then there are sounds you don’t even notice. How about the turning of the blades on the ceiling fan or the sound of air blowing into a vent. These kinds of sound are not generally heard because the brain decides you don’t really need to hear them.

It’s “normal” for your brain to hear these sounds, is the point. Now, what happens if you turn half of those sounds off? Confusion takes place in the part of the brain that hears sound. It is possible that the phantom sounds associated with tinnitus are the brain’s way of generating noise for it to interpret because it knows it should be there.

Tinnitus has other possible causes as well. Severe health problems can also be the cause, such as:

  • Head or neck tumors
  • Turbulent blood flow
  • Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ)
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor circulation
  • Meniere’s disease
  • A reaction to medication
  • Acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the cranial nerve
  • Head or neck trauma
  • Atherosclerosis

Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. You may get the ringing even though you hear fine or after an injury or accident. It’s important to get get a hearing exam to find out why you’re experiencing tinnitus before searching for ways to get rid of it.

Can Anything be Done About Tinnitus?

When you discover why you have it, you can figure out what to do about it. The only thing that helps, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. If the lack of sound is causing your tinnitus, you need to create some. Something as basic as a fan running in the background may generate enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t need to be much.

Technology such as a white noise generator is made just for this purpose. They simulate calming natural sounds like falling rain or ocean waves. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you get one with pillow speakers.

Investing in hearing aids is also a good option. With quality hearing aids, you are turning up the volume of the sounds the brain is listening for like the AC running. The brain doesn’t need to generate phantom noises because hearing aids normalize your hearing.

For most people, the solution is a combination of tricks. For example, you might use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.

If the tinnitus is more severe and soft sounds don’t work there are also medications available. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.

Lifestyle Changes to Handle Your Tinnitus

Changing your lifestyle a little bit will help too. Figuring out if there are triggers is a good place to start. Keep a diary and make a note of what’s happening when the tinnitus starts. Be specific:

  • What did you just eat?
  • Did you just drink a cup of coffee or soda?
  • Is there a specific noise that is triggering it?
  • Are you drinking alcohol or smoking a cigarette?
  • Did you just take medication even over-the-counter products like Tylenol?

You will begin to notice the patterns that trigger the ringing if you record the information very precisely. Meditation, exercise, and biofeedback can help you avoid stress which can also be responsible.

An Ounce of Prevention

Take the appropriate steps to prevent tinnitus from the start. Protect your hearing as much as possible by:

  • Wearing ear protection when around loud noises
  • Not wearing earbuds or headphones when listening to music
  • Turning down the volume on everything
  • Taking care of your cardiovascular system

Eat right, exercise, and if you have high blood pressure, take your medication. Finally, schedule a hearing exam to rule out treatable issues that increase your risk of hearing loss and the tinnitus that comes with it.

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