Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

Woman suffering from ringing in her ears.

Whether or not you hear it occasionally or it’s with you all of the time, the ringing of tinnitus can be annoying. There might be a more appropriate word than annoying. Makes-you-want-to-bash-your-head-against-the-desk aggravating and downright frustrating might be better. That sound that you can’t get rid of is a problem however you choose to describe it. Can anything be done? Can that ringing actually be prevented?

Why do You Have Tinnitus And What Exactly is it?

Start by finding out more about the condition that is responsible for the ringing, clicking, buzzing, 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 itself. Hearing loss is often the primary cause of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a result of hearing decline. Why tinnitus comes about when there is a change in a person’s hearing is still not well understood. The latest theory is the brain generates the noise to fill a void.

You experience thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of sounds each day. There are the noticeable sounds like a motor running or someone yelling, and then there are noises you don’t notice. How about the spinning 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.

The main point is, hearing these sounds is “normal” for your brain. Turn half those sounds off and how would the brain react? The portion of your brain that deals with hearing becomes confused. It might produce the phantom tinnitus noises to fill in the blanks because it knows sound should be there.

There are also other possible causes of tinnitus, however. Severe health problems can also be the cause, like:

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

Any of these things can trigger tinnitus. After an injury or accident, even though you can hear fine, you may experience this ringing. A hearing exam should be scheduled with a doctor before attempting to find other ways of dealing with it.

What to do About Tinnitus

You can figure out what to do about it after you determine why you have it. The only thing that works, sometimes, is to give the brain what it wants. You have to create some sound if your tinnitus is caused by lack of it. A sound as simple as a fan running in the background may create enough noise to switch off the ringing, it doesn’t have to be much.

Technology such as a white noise generator is made just for this purpose. Ocean waves or rain falling are relaxing natural sounds which these devices simulate. You can hear the sound as you sleep if you buy one with pillow speakers.

Investing in hearing aids is also a good solution. The sounds the brain is looking for can be turned up using quality hearing aids. Because your hearing is normalized, phantom sounds are no longer produced by the brain.

A combination of tricks is most effective for most people. For instance, you could use a white noise generator at night and hearing aids during the day.

If soft sounds aren’t helping or if the tinnitus is severe, there are medications that might help. Certain antidepressants can silence this noise, for example, Xanax.

Handle You Tinnitus With Lifestyle Changes

Making a few lifestyle modifications can help, too. Figuring out if there are triggers is a good place to start. Write down in a journal what’s going on when the tinnitus begins. Be specific:

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

The more specific your information, the faster you’ll see the patterns that could be triggering the ringing. 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 you can by:

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

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

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