Man holding his ear because of Tinnitus

Is the ringing in your ears getting worse? Stop doing these 9 things that aggravate tinnitus and you may see an improvement.

If you have tinnitus, no one has to tell you how miserable it can be. Verging on painful, it makes it hard to hear, concentrate, relax, and enjoy life. Yet much as you’d like to get rid of it, you may be doing some things to make your tinnitus worse. Let’s look at 9 habits that may make the condition worse.

1. You Really Need to Turn the TV Down: Loud Noises Are Bad for Tinnitus

It’s nearly impossible to avoid loud noises. That’s a fact. It doesn’t matter whether it’s part of your job, you’re mowing the lawn, enjoying a fireworks show, or just listening to the TV a little too loudly.

These and other loud noises cause permanent hearing loss. For many people, tinnitus, which is characterized as a ringing in the ears, is an early sign that they’re on their way to profound deafness.

The good news is that you can take steps now to prevent further hearing damage from loud noises. You can start by wearing protection for your ears such as earplugs or earmuffs if you work in a loud environment or spend a lot of time at concerts where the band turns the amps up to 11. When you have a choice, try to spend less time in noisy places like nightclubs. And most importantly, never try to drown out noise with music, because that really just makes things worse.

2. Frankie Says Relax: Stress Makes Tinnitus Worse

In today’s fast-paced world, many of us have forgotten how to relax. We feel unproductive if we’re not always on the go, or we let unmanaged stress eat away at us instead of attending to our needs or addressing the underlying causes.

Take some “me” time. Do something you love. Allow yourself to take time off. Learn to meditate and exercise more to help manage stress naturally.

If these things aren’t helping, you might want to consider speaking with a mental health professional. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment used to great success by many mental health counselors to help patients manage their tinnitus. While CBT doesn’t cure tinnitus or get rid of the ringing, patients learn how to recognize the negative thoughts associated with tinnitus and use the tools given them by the mental health professional to put a positive, realistic spin on those thoughts.

3. You’re Taking Drugs (No, Not That Kind): These Medications Make Tinnitus Worse

Many medications can cause and worsen tinnitus. These include drugs most people think are harmless like over-the-counter pain medications, as well as prescription opiates like Oxycontin or morphine.

In addition to these, research has shown that some diuretics, antidepressants, antibiotics and cancer drugs can make tinnitus worse and cause permanent hearing loss. These drugs are known as ototoxic medications, which means that they can cause hearing loss. The good news is that tinnitus symptoms usually only last for as long as you’re taking the medication – the bad news is that some people need to take these drugs on a regular basis for other health reasons.

If you have to take these drugs, talk to your doctor about alternatives that may have less of an effect on your tinnitus. When possible, make lifestyle changes to reduce your need to take these drugs long-term.

4. Your Tinnitus Is Telling You Something…But You’re Not Listening

Tinnitus is a warning sign. Often it’s telling you that something isn’t right. That something could be noise, stress, medications or something else.

Oftentimes, it might just be the foods you’re eating – or not eating. To find out if your diet is the cause of the ringing in your ears, try keeping a food journal. Note days when it’s worse and you’ll likely find that you have some triggers. For instance, many people find that artificial sweeteners and caffeine make it worse.

In a lot of cases, people may find that the ringing in their ears is worse because they’re not getting enough iron in their diet, which may lead to iron deficiency anemia. This condition makes the blood pump harder throughout the body to make sure all the organs get the oxygen they need and can often result in a rushing sound in the ears.

5. Your Ears Give Madame Tussaud a Run for Her Money

No, your ears are not a world famous wax museum, but wait – keep reading before you run for those cotton swabs.

Sometimes people get tinnitus because they are over-producing wax, which can happen when people try to clean their ears with a cotton swab.

Cleaning your ears with cotton swabs can push old, dirty wax that was on its way out of the canal back into the ear and can also cause your ear to react by producing more wax. Both of these things can result in a blockage of the ear canal, which is a direct cause of ringing in the ears.

When you use a cotton swab, make sure you only clean the outside of your ear. If you think you have too much wax build up in your ears, you should have a hearing specialist check your ears. They’ll determine the best course of action for you, which usually involves a professional removing the excess wax.

6. Your Blood Pressure Is Through the Roof

A common cause of tinnitus is elevated blood pressure, which cuts off the blood supply to the inner ear. This will cause more serious hearing loss over a prolonged amount of time and can be very difficult to reverse.

Take steps to get your blood pressure under control and keep it that way, whether through medication or other treatments. One of the biggest causes of high blood pressure is stress, so a reduction in your stress should help bring it down. While this sounds a lot easier said than done, you may want to speak with a mental health professional about stress and anxiety management.

7. You’re Watching the Late, Late, Late Show

Insomnia can have many negative impacts on the body. Whether you’re skimping on sleep to get more done or you’re unable to get the recommended 7-8 hours, it’s time to take action.

Start by keeping a behavior journal to track your daily routine and find out which activities may be impacting your sleep duration or quality. Some common culprits include:

  • Caffeine or sugar in the late afternoon
  • Drinking alcohol in the evening
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Not managing stress
  • Using devices that emit blue light, including TVs, phones, and tablets right before bed

Once you’ve determined the cause or causes, you can take the right steps to get yourself back on track and sleeping like a baby.

You may also find that your tinnitus symptoms are worse during the night time when you’re trying to sleep, and that tinnitus itself is keeping you up. This is because tinnitus has no noise competition in a quiet bedroom, which makes it deafeningly loud. Try using a white noise machine to add some background noise while you sleep

8. This One Little Thing May Be Costing You Big Time

Alcohol is a huge contributing factor to tinnitus and hearing loss. For many, a glass of wine with dinner or a nightcap is a simple luxury they’d rather not give up, but this one little thing could be making your tinnitus worse.

Alcohol not only increases tinnitus, but over time it increases your risk of permanent hearing loss. Alcohol actually raises your blood pressure, which we covered earlier, and reduces blood flow to the ears, which can cause permanent cell death.

Make note of when the tinnitus volume increases or becomes more noticeable. Does it coincide with an alcoholic drink? You may need to limit your liquor consumption to protect your hearing.

9. You’re Still Smoking? Yes, This Affects Your Hearing Too

Smoking rates have declined over the years, yet there are many people who are still smoking. It can be very hard to quit if you’ve been smoking for much of your life.

In any case, here’s one more reason to re-double your efforts to kick the habit: It may be making your tinnitus worse. In fact, one study found that smokers are 15 percent more likely to suffer from hearing loss than non-smokers. The chemicals in cigarettes can harm the inner ear and constrict the blood vessels that carry blood to your ears, which leads to ringing in the ears.

Don’t Let the Ringing in Your Ears Get Worse. Start Improving Your Tinnitus Today.

If you take steps to address these causes of tinnitus symptoms, you’ll most likely slow the progression of hearing loss.

But even if you start making these changes, be sure to get your hearing tested and talk to a hearing specialist about solutions for treating or managing tinnitus. You may be surprised at the advanced options available – as well as the fact that you don’t have to suffer with unmanaged tinnitus any longer.