If you are not one of the 55 million Americans that have chronic tinnitus, chances are you have probably experienced temporary tinnitus at some point in your life.
Tinnitus is defined as a sound that is heard in the ears when no external source is present. It can be perceived as ringing, rushing, whooshing, buzzing and even music! For many Americans, it is a part of daily life. There are however some simple tips that can help with tinnitus management.
1) Be aware of loud dangerous noises
Temporary tinnitus is often causes when people are exposed to noise that are at dangerous listening levels. Very noisy environments such as concerts, shooting guns, lawn mowers, recreational vehicles, and other similar situations cause temporary changes in your hearing which also can produce temporary tinnitus. Although these symptoms typically resolve after being away from the noise, chronic exposure to these dangerously high noise levels can result in permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Noises are generally too loud if you have to yell to be heard, have pain in your ears after exposure, have reduced hearing after exposure, or have temporary tinnitus after exposure. Another source of high noise is ear level music devices such as iPods. A good rule of thumb to determine if your tunes are too loud is if person five feet from you can hear it, it’s time to turn it down.
2) Protect your hearing in noisy environments
Our world is a noisy place. Hair dryers are noisy, children are noisy, restaurants are noisy, and so on. Once you are familiar with the dangerous sounds, it is key that you protect your hearing when you are exposed to these sounds. Carry around a pair of disposable foam plugs in your car or purse so you can always protect your ears if you happen to be around dangerous noises. If you know you are going to be exposed to high noise, have access to hearing protection ahead of time so you can properly protect your hearing. Making sure that your headphones and earplugs fit well and form a good seal to block the noises.
3) Use other noises to keep your brain busy
If you are one of the millions that suffer from chronic tinnitus, one of the best management strategies is too have other sounds around to help distract your mind from the ringing. Most of my patients notice their tinnitus more at night, not necessarily because its worse at night, but because there are no other sounds in the environment for their brains to listen to therefore, it “hears” the tinnitus more. Use basic “tabletop maskers” such as fans, radios, TVs, or sound machines to help give your brain more to listen to.
4) Know your ears
Hearing loss and tinnitus typically occur together. It is important that if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, you have your hearing checked. There are conditions that can cause tinnitus that your Audiologist can help rule out. Factors that are known to cause tinnitus that can typically be medical managed include allergy/sinus pathology, middle ear infections, and wax impactions. Other things such as certain medications, inner ear disorders, or other medical conditions can additionally cause tinnitus. Your Audiologist is well trained to take a very thorough case history to determine if further medical management is warranted.
5) Treat that hearing loss
Tinnitus and hearing loss have a very high correlation. Many times, if the Audiologist is able to restore the hearing loss to more normal levels, it gives the brain more to listen to and can eliminate or significantly reduce patient’s perception of the tinnitus when using their hearing aids. For those that still experience tinnitus with hearing aids, there are now some hearing aids that offer tinnitus management programs to help the brain adapt to the tinnitus. Finally, there are many counseling or retraining methods that are available that have helped many patients to reduce their tinnitus.
In closing, I would love to say there is a “cure” for tinnitus, however it is not here yet. What I will say is that there are MANY options for tinnitus sufferers to help manage their tinnitus.
For those that have more bothersome or severe tinnitus, you are not alone and there is help. It is vital to be evaluated by a AudigyCertified Audiologist or provider who has specialty training in tinnitus and tinnitus management to help develop unique treatment plan for you. Please visit the Tinnitus Practitioners Association or American Tinnitus Associations website for local experts near you.