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 this country, according to the National Tinnitus Association. Don’t worry, if you have it, you’re not alone. It’s generally unclear why people experience tinnitus and there is no cure. For most, the secret to living with it is to find ways to manage it. The ultimate checklist to tackle tinnitus is a good place to begin.

Learning About Tinnitus

About one in five people are suffering from tinnitus and can hear noises that no one else can. Medically, tinnitus is described as the perception of a phantom sound due to an inherent medical issue. It’s not a sickness of itself, but a symptom, in other words.

Hearing loss is the biggest reason people develop 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. As an example, your someone talking to you is only sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical signals. The brain translates the electrical impulses into words that you can comprehend.

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

There are less electrical signals for the brain to interpret when someone has hearing loss. The brain waits for them, but due to damage in the inner ear, they never arrive. When that occurs, the brain may try to generate a sound of its own to fill that space.

Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:

  • Clicking
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Ringing
  • Hissing

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

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

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

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

Your Ear’s Best Friend is Prevention

As with most things, prevention is how you avoid a problem. Decreasing your risk of hearing loss later in life begins with protecting your ears now. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

  • Avoiding long-term exposure to loud noises at work or home.
  • If you have an ear infection, see a doctor.
  • Reducing the amount of time you spend using headphones or earbuds.

Every few years get your hearing examined, too. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it allows you to get treatment or make lifestyle changes to prevent 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.

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

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

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

The tinnitus is most likely short-term if you answered yes to any of these scenarios.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better

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

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

Here are some specific medications which may cause this issue too:

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

Making a change could get rid of 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 minimize the ringing and better your situation.

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Because tinnitus is a side effect and not a disease, treating the cause would be the first step. If you have high blood pressure, medication will lower it, and the tinnitus should disappear.

Finding a way to suppress tinnitus is, for some, the only way to deal with it. White noise machines can be useful. They generate the noise the brain is missing and the ringing goes away. You can also try a fan, humidifier or dehumidifier to get the same effect.

Tinnitus retraining is another method. The frequencies of tinnitus are hidden by a machine which emits similar tones. It can help you learn not to focus on it.

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

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

The diary will help you to track patterns. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to order something else next time.

Your quality of life is affected by tinnitus so your best chance is finding a way to eliminate it or at least lessen its impact. To learn more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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