Tinnitus is a condition that affects more than 45 million people in this country, according to the National Tinnitus Association. Don’t worry, if you have it, you’re not alone. It’s generally not clear why people experience tinnitus and there is no cure. For most, the trick to living with it is to find ways to deal with it. An excellent place to start to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.
Learning About Tinnitus
About one in five people are living everyday hearing noises that no one else can hear because they suffer from tinnitus. Medically, tinnitus is defined as the perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical issue. It’s not an illness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.
Hearing loss is the biggest reason people get tinnitus. The brain is trying to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Your brain makes the decision as to what it needs to know after interpreting the sound it hears. For example, your spouse talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical impulses. The electrical signals are translated into words you can understand by the brain.
You don’t actually “hear” all the sound that is around you. The brain filters out the sound it doesn’t think is important to you. For instance, 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.
When someone suffers from certain forms of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The brain waits for them, but due to injury in the inner ear, they never come. The brain may attempt to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that happens.
Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:
It might be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom noise.
There are other reasons besides hearing loss you might have tinnitus. Here are some other possible causes:
- Loud noises around you
- Earwax accumulation
- Neck injury
- Acoustic neuroma
- Meniere’s disease
- Head injury
- Poor blood flow in the neck
- TMJ disorder
- Tumor in the head or neck
- Malformed capillaries
- High blood pressure
- Ear bone changes
Although physically harmless, tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression and can create problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.
Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention
Prevention is how you prevent an issue as with most things. Decreasing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with safeguarding your ears now. Tips to protect your ear health include:
- Seeing a doctor if you have an ear infection.
- When you’re at work or at home reduce long term exposure to loud noises.
- Reducing the amount of time you spend wearing headphones or earbuds.
Every few years have your hearing tested, too. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss issue.
If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms
Ringing indicates you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t tell you why you have it or how you got it. You can understand more with a little trial and error.
Abstain from wearing headphones or earbuds entirely and see if the sound stops after a while.
Evaluate your noise exposure. The night before the ringing started were you around loud noise? Did you, for instance:
- Go to a concert
- Work or sit near an unusually loud noise
- Listen to the music of TV with headphones or earbuds
- Attend a party
If the answer is yes to any of those scenarios, it’s likely the tinnitus is temporary.
If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better
Getting an ear exam would be the next step. Your physician will look for potential causes of the tinnitus such as:
- Stress levels
- Ear damage
- Ear wax
Specific medication could cause this issue too like:
- Quinine medications
- Water pills
- Cancer Meds
Making a change may get rid of the tinnitus.
If there is no evident cause, then the doctor can order a hearing examination, or you can schedule one on your own. If you do have hearing loss, hearing aids can lessen the ringing and improve your situation.
Since tinnitus is a side effect and not an illness, treating the cause would be the first step. The tinnitus should go away once you take the proper medication if you have high blood pressure.
Discovering a way to control tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. A useful device is a white noise machine. The ringing stops when the white noise replaces the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same result from a fan or dehumidifier.
Tinnitus retraining is another method. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a machine which creates similar tones. It can teach you not to focus on it.
You will also need to find ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. They are different for each person, so start keeping a diary. Write down everything before the ringing started.
- What did you eat or drink?
- What sound did you hear?
- What were you doing?
Tracking patterns is possible using this method. You would know to order something else if you drank a double espresso each time because caffeine is a well known trigger.
Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best hope 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.