Tackle Tinnitus With This Ultimate Checklist

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

Tinnitus is a condition that affects more than 45 million people in the US, 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 necessarily obvious why certain people get tinnitus. For most, the secret to living with it is to come up with ways to deal with it. A perfect place to start to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.

Learning About Tinnitus

About one in five people are living everyday hearing sounds that no one else can hear because they have tinnitus. The perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical issue is the medical description of tinnitus. In other words, it’s a symptom, not an illness itself.

The most prevalent reason people develop tinnitus is hearing loss. Think of it as the brain’s method of filling in some gaps. Your brain decides what it needs to know after interpreting the sound it hears. As an example, your someone talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear converts them into electrical impulses. The brain translates the electrical impulses into words that you can comprehend.

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. You may not hear the wind blowing, for instance. You can feel it, but the brain masks the sound of it passing by your ears because it’s not important that you hear it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.

When someone suffers from certain types of hearing loss, there are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret. The brain waits for them, but due to damage 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:

  • Ringing
  • Hissing
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Roaring

It may be a soft, loud, low pitched, or high pitched phantom sound.

There are other reasons besides loss of hearing you could have tinnitus. Other possible causes include:

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

Although physically harmless, tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression and high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping and other problems can occur.

Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend

As with most things, prevention is how you avert a problem. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

  • Spending less time using headphones or earbuds.
  • Consulting a doctor if you have an ear infection.
  • Avoiding long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.

Get your hearing checked every few years, too. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle changes to avoid further damage.

If You do Hear The Ringing

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.

See if the sound goes away over time if you avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.

Evaluate your noise exposure. The night before the ringing started 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 near an unusually loud noise

If the answer is yes to any of those scenarios, chances are the tinnitus is short-term.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better

Getting an ear exam would be the next thing to do. Some possible causes your physician will look for are:

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

Specific medication could cause this issue too such as:

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

Making a change may clear up the tinnitus.

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

Treating Tinnitus

Because tinnitus isn’t a disease, but rather a side effect of something else, the first step is to treat the cause. If you have high blood pressure, medication will lower it, and the tinnitus should fade away.

Finding a way to control tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. A helpful device is a white noise machine. They create the noise the brain is missing and the ringing goes away. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.

Tinnitus retraining is another strategy. You wear a device that delivers a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. You can use this technique to learn not to pay attention to it.

You will also need to determine ways to avoid tinnitus triggers. They are not the same for each person, so start keeping a diary. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything right before you heard the ringing.

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

Tracking patterns is possible using this method. 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 finding ways to minimize its impact or eliminate it is your best hope. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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