The Ultimate Checklist to Tackle Tinnitus

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

Tinnitus is a condition that affects over 45 million people in the US, according to the National Tinnitus Association. If you have it, rest assured you are not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not absolutely clear why some people get tinnitus. Discovering ways to manage it is the secret to living with it, for most. A perfect place to begin to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.

Learning About Tinnitus

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

Hearing loss is the most common reason people develop tinnitus. The brain is trying to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Most of the time, your mind works to translate the sound you hear and then determines if you need to know about it. All the sound around you is converted by the ear into electrical signals but before that, it’s only pressure waves. The brain transforms the electrical impulses into words that you can understand.

Sound is all around you, but you don’t “hear” it all. The brain filters out the noise it doesn’t think is important to you. You may not hear the wind blowing, as an example. 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. If you were capable of listening to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.

There are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret when someone suffers from hearing loss. The brain expects them, but due to injury in the inner ear, they never come. When that occurs, the brain may try to produce a sound of its own to fill that space.

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Roaring
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Ringing

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

Hearing loss is not the only reason you might have tinnitus. Other possible causes include:

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

Although physically harmless, tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression and can create complications like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.

Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend

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

  • If you have an ear infection, consult a doctor.
  • When you’re at work or at home avoid long term exposure to loud noises.
  • Spending less time using headphones or earbuds.

Every few years get your hearing examined, also. The test allows you to make lifestyle adjustments and get treatment as well as alerting you to an existing hearing loss problem.

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. You can understand more with a little trial and error.

Find out if the sound goes away after a while if you avoid wearing headphones or earbuds.

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

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

The tinnitus is probably temporary if you answered yes to any of these situations.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t Get Better

Having an ear exam would be the next step. Some possible causes your physician will look for are:

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

Certain medication could cause this issue too such as:

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

The tinnitus might go away if you make a change.

You can schedule a hearing exam if you can’t find any other apparent cause. Hearing aids can improve your situation and reduce the ringing, if you do have loss of hearing, by using hearing aids.

How is Tinnitus Treated?

Since 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 solution is to deal with the tinnitus, which means finding ways to control it. White noise machines are useful. The ringing goes away when the white noise takes the place of the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.

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

Also, avoiding tinnitus triggers is important. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are different for everyone. Write down everything before the ringing started.

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

Tracking patterns is possible using this method. Caffeine is a known trigger, so if you drank a double espresso each time, you know to order something else next time.

Tinnitus affects your quality of life, so finding ways to minimize its impact or eliminate 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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