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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. If you have it, don’t worry you are not alone. There is no cure, and it’s not absolutely obvious why some people get tinnitus. Discovering ways to deal with it is the trick to living with it, for many. An excellent place to start to tackle tinnitus is the ultimate checklist.

Understanding Tinnitus

About one in five people have tinnitus and can hear sounds that no one else can hear. Medically, tinnitus is defined as the perception of a phantom sound caused by an underlying medical issue. In other words, it’s a symptom, not an illness itself.

The most common reason people get tinnitus is loss of hearing. 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 decides if you need to know about it. For example, your spouse talking to you is just sound waves until the inner ear changes them into electrical impulses. The brain translates the electrical signals into words that you can understand.

You don’t actually “hear” all the sound that is around you. The brain filters out the noise it doesn’t think is important to you. You may not hear the wind blowing, as an example. Because it’s not important, the brain masks the sound of it as it passes by your ears even though you can feel it. If you were able to listen to every sound, it would be both distracting and confusing.

When someone suffers from certain types of hearing loss, there are less electrical impulses for the brain to interpret. The brain expects them, but due to damage in the inner ear, they never arrive. When that takes place, the brain may try to generate a sound of its own to fill that space.

For tinnitus suffers, that sound is:

  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Hissing
  • Clicking
  • Ringing

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

Hearing loss is not the only reason you could have tinnitus. Here are some other possible causes:

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

Although physically harmless, tinnitus is linked to anxiety and depression and can cause problems like difficulty sleeping and high blood pressure.

Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend

Prevention is how you prevent a problem as with most things. Protecting your ears decreases your chance of hearing loss later in life. Check out these tips to protect your ears:

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

Every few years have your hearing examined, also. The test not only points out hearing loss problem, but it enables you to get treatment or make lifestyle adjustments to prevent 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. A little trial and error can help you understand more.

Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds entirely and see if the sound goes away after a while.

Assess your noise exposure. The night before the ringing began were you around loud noise? For example, did you:

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

The tinnitus is probably short-term if you answered yes to any of these situations.

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:

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

Here are some particular medications that could cause this issue too:

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

Making a change might get rid of the tinnitus.

If there is no obvious cause, then the doctor can order a hearing test, or you can schedule one on your own. Hearing aids can improve your situation and lessen the ringing, if you do have hearing loss, by using hearing aids.

Treating Tinnitus

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

For some, the only solution is to deal with the tinnitus, which means discovering ways to control it. A helpful device is a white noise machine. 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.

Tinnitus retraining is another method. You wear a device that produces a tone to mask the frequencies of the tinnitus. It can help you learn not to focus on it.

Also, staying away from tinnitus triggers is important. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are not the same for everyone. When the tinnitus begins, write down everything right before you heard the ringing.

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

Tracking patterns is possible using this method. You would know to order something different 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.

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