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 a sound that is heard in the ears when no external source is present. It can be described as ringing, whooshing, buzzing, or rushing. Here are some simple tips that can help with tinnitus management.
1. Be aware of loud dangerous sounds. Temporary tinnitus is often caused when people are exposed to noise at dangerous levels. Temporary tinnitus can be caused by lawnmowers, concerts, shooting guns, and recreational vehicles. Temporary tinnitus typically resolves once removed from the noise, however, repeated exposure to these dangerously high noise levels can result in permanent tinnitus and hearing loss. Another source of high noise is ear-level music devices such as iPods. If a person five feet from you can hear your music, it’s time to turn it down.
2. Protect your hearing in noisy environments. The world is a noisy place. Once you are familiar with the dangerous sounds, it is important to protect your hearing when you are exposed to these sounds. Have a pair of disposable foam earplugs or headphones in your house or car if you happen to be around dangerous noises. Make sure your headphones or earplugs fit well and form a good seal to block the noises.
3. Use other noises to keep your brain busy. One of the best management strategies is to have other sounds around to help distract your mind from the ringing. Most people notice their tinnitus worse at night, not necessarily because their tinnitus is worse at night, but because there are no other sounds in the environment for their brains to listen to. Some basic maskers such as fans, radios, TVs, or sound machines can give your brain more to listen to.
4. Know your ears. Hearing loss and tinnitus usually occur together. If you suffer from chronic tinnitus, have your hearing checked. There are conditions that can cause tinnitus that your Audiologist can help rule out. Certain medications, inner ear disorders, or other medical conditions can cause tinnitus. Allergy/sinus pathology, middle ear infections, and wax impactions are other factors that can cause tinnitus.
5. Treat hearing loss. If the Audiologist is able to restore hearing loss to more normal levels, it gives the brain more to listen to and can eliminate or significantly reduce the patient’s perception of the tinnitus when using their hearing aids. If the hearing aids alone do not mask the tinnitus, there are hearing aids that offer tinnitus management programs to help the brain adapt to the tinnitus. There are many counseling or retraining methods that are available that have helped many patients to reduce their tinnitus.