Tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus) is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about 1 in 5 people, nearly 50 million Americans. Tinnitus isn't a condition itself, it's a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury, a circulatory system disorder, or obstruction of the ear canal.
Tinnitus can improve with treatment. Treating an identified underlying cause sometimes helps. Other treatments reduce or mask the noise, making tinnitus less noticeable.
Tinnitus involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears:
The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.
Currently, there are no known cures for tinnitus, however, there are ways to relieve the perception of tinnitus. Contact a hearing healthcare provider to see if sound therapy can help relieve your symptoms.
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 it worse. Let’s look at 9 habits that may make the condition worse.
1. You’re Not Protecting Your Ears
It’s nearly impossible to avoid loud noise. 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 playing some music way too loud.
These and other loud noises cause permanent hearing loss. For many people, tinnitus is an early sign that they’re on their way to profound deafness.
Take steps now to prevent further damage: Wear protection for your ears such as earplugs or earmuffs. When you have a choice, spend less time in noisy places. Never try to drown out noise with music.
2. You’re Taking Drugs (No, Not That Kind)
Many medications can cause and worsen tinnitus. These include drugs most people think are harmless like over-the-counter pain medications. They also include opiates like Oxycontin or morphine.
In addition to these; some diuretics, antidepressants, antibiotics and cancer drugs can make tinnitus worse and cause permanent hearing loss.
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.
3. You Don’t Relax
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.
4. You’re Not Listening to Your Body
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.
It might be the foods you’re eating.
Keep a food journal. Note days when it’s worse. You’ll likely find that you have some triggers. Many people find that artificial sweeteners and caffeine make it worse.
5. You’re Letting Your Ears Fill with Wax
Wait! Don’t run for the cotton swabs.
Sometimes people get tinnitus because they are over-producing wax. This 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. It can also cause your ear to react by producing more wax.
Only clean the outside of your ear. Have a hearing specialist check your ears. Let a professional remove the excess wax.
6. You’re Letting Your Blood Pressure Get Out of Control
A common cause of tinnitus is elevated blood pressure. Reducing stress should help bring it down.
Allowing blood pressure to stay elevated cuts off the blood supply to your inner ear. This will cause more serious hearing loss with time.
Take steps to get and keep your blood pressure under control.
7. You’re Not Sleeping Well
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.
Keep a behavior journal. Certain activities may be impacting sleep duration or quality. Some common culprits include:
- Caffeine or sugar in the late afternoon
- Using devices, including TV, right before bed
- Drinking alcohol in the evening
- Not getting enough exercise
- Not managing stress
Get to the root of it to improve your tinnitus.
8. One LIttle Thing May Be Costing You Big Time
For many, a glass of wine with dinner or a nightcap is a simple luxury they’d rather not give up. This one little thing could be making your tinnitus worse.
Alcohol not only increases tinnitus. Over time it increases your risk of permanent hearing loss. It raises your blood pressure and reduces blood flow to the ears. This can cause permanent cell death.
Make note of when the tinnitus volume increases or becomes more noticeable. Is it coinciding with an alcoholic drink? You may need to limit consumption to protect your hearing.
9. You’re Still Smoking
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.
Here’s one more reason to re-double your efforts to kick the habit: It may be making your tinnitus worse.
Improving Your Tinnitus
Take these steps to improve tinnitus symptoms, and you’ll also slow the progression of hearing loss.
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. You don’t have to suffer with unmanaged tinnitus any longer.