According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 45 million Americans have that persistent ringing in the ears that we call tinnitus. For 26% of these people, the symptoms are nearly constant and unbearable.
Enjoying an animated movie with your young grandson may be one of the greatest joys in life. A beautiful conversation with your daughter about her home renovation plans should be a delight. But with tinnitus, you try to enjoy the moment while on edge, shifting uncomfortably in your seat and even unable to hear.
Let’s explore 7 steps to address these symptoms.
1. It All Starts with Prevention
If you are a very early stage, know that tinnitus is usually a symptom of some sort of damage. The most common cause of tinnitus is loud noise.
Take precautions to prevent further damage. Wear ear protection when you engage in noisy activities like practice shooting, concerts or riding a motorcycle. Modern motorcycle helmets are designed to protect your ears so there’s another reason to always wear one.
2. Get Your Love for Loud in Check
“The louder the better.” You’ve lived by this mantra most of your life. But now you’re starting to think about the long-term consequences of this lifestyle choice.
It’s never a good idea to beat yourself up about the past. Instead, focus on what you can do now.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that you never listen to music at over 60% of its max volume for 60 minutes. If you wear earbuds, be especially cautious. Earbuds direct sound right into the ear canal. They’re louder at a lower volume.
3. Take an Inventory of the Medicine Cabinet
Some medications can contribute to tinnitus and hearing loss. If you are on these meds and the tinnitus is becoming unbearable, speak with your prescribing physician about alternatives.
- Over-the-counter painkillers, like Tylenol, aspirin, Advil or Aleve when used 2 or more times a day for an extended period of time.
- Opiates (prescribed and the illegal ones)
- Loop diuretics
- Some antibiotics
- Some chemo drugs
4. Get a Hearing Test
Could fixing your tinnitus be as simple as cleaning the earwax out? You’ll never know if you don’t have someone take a look.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist for a complete hearing evaluation. It may be a simple fix. Or you may have more complex tinnitus. A hearing professional diagnoses tinnitus and discusses potential causes and treatments.
5. Manage Stress
Stress and tinnitus go hand in hand. As stress worsens, so can tinnitus. As the tinnitus gets louder, you may feel more stressed. Cutting this cycle off at its core can significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms.
In some cases, anti-anxiety and/or antidepressants may help.
But it’s often good to start with more natural stress management techniques like:
- Reading quietly or doing another peaceful activity
- Deep breathing
- Regular walks
6. White Noise
Does your tinnitus get worse when you’re in a quiet room? That’s because most of the time, you’re around some kind of low-level noise. It might be an air conditioner, TV or traffic. Take these away and the sound becomes more pronounced.
To address those symptoms, reintroduce controlled noise into the room. If your tinnitus is mild, then turning a ceiling fan on might help. If you have moderate to severe tinnitus, box fans and sound machines produce sufficiently loud and consistent white noise so you can sleep and carry on a conversation without distraction.
7. Hearing Aids
Many hearing aids today can be programmed to help you tune the tinnitus out. They emit a matching frequency that trains the brain to “not hear” the sound. Or they work to cancel the sound with a complementary tone. Hearing aids are one of the best long-term solutions for treating tinnitus.
Are you living with a persistent ringing in your ear? Does it have you cringing to hear your loved ones or the TV? Is it hard to sleep at night? You don’t have to live with that persistent ringing. Explore your options. Talk with a hearing professional.