Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

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

Tinnitus is a condition that affects over 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 often not clear why people get tinnitus and there is no cure. Discovering ways to deal with it is the secret to living with it, for many. 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 sounds that no one else can hear. The perception of a phantom sound due to an underlying medical issue is the medical description of tinnitus. In other words, it’s a symptom, not an illness itself.

The most prevalent reason people get tinnitus is loss of hearing. The brain is attempting to fill in some gaps and that’s one way of thinking of it. Your brain decides what it needs to know after interpreting the sound it hears. All the sound around is transformed by the ear into electrical signals but before that, it’s only pressure waves. The electrical impulses are converted into words you can comprehend by the brain.

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 might 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 crucial that you hear it. It would be confusing and distracting if you heard every sound.

When someone suffers from certain forms 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. The brain may attempt to create a sound of its own to fill the space when that occurs.

Some Sounds tinnitus sufferers hear are:

  • Hissing
  • Ringing
  • Roaring
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking

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

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

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

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

Prevention is Your Ear’s Best Friend

Prevention is how you prevent an issue like with most things. Protecting your ears reduces your chance of hearing loss later in life. Tricks to protect your hearing health include:

  • Reducing the amount of time you spend using headphones or earbuds.
  • When you’re at work or at home avoid long term exposure to loud noises.
  • Seeing a doctor if you have an ear infection.

Every few years have your hearing checked, too. The test not only alerts you to a hearing loss problem, but it allows you to get treatment or make lifestyle changes to avoid further damage.

If You Notice Tinnitus Symptoms

Ringing means you have tinnitus, but it doesn’t tell you why you have it or how you got it. A little trial and error can help you understand more.

Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds altogether and see if the sound stops over time.

Take a close look at your noise exposure. Were you around loud noise the night before the ringing started? For instance, did you:

  • Attend a party
  • Go to a concert
  • 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 scenarios.

If The Tinnitus Doesn’t go Away

The next thing to do would be to get an ear exam. Your physician will look for potential causes of the tinnitus such as:

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

Certain medication might cause this problem too such as:

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

Making a change may get rid of the tinnitus.

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

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 lower it, and the tinnitus should fade away.

Looking for a way to suppress tinnitus is, for some, the only way to live with it. White noise machines can be useful. The ringing stops when the white noise replaces the sound the brain is missing. You can also get the same effect from a fan or dehumidifier.

Another method 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.

You will also want to discover ways to stay away from tinnitus triggers. Start keeping a diary because tinnitus triggers are different for everybody. 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 in this way. You would know to order something different if you had a double espresso each time because caffeine is a 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 find out more about your tinnitus, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist today.

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