Serving the Hearing Healthcare Needs of the AK Valley Since 1958

What is the Best Way to Manage Tinnitus?

a woman experiencing ear discomfort

If you experience tinnitus, or perceived ringing in the ears, you may be seeking ways to reduce the constant sound. Around 10% of Americans experience tinnitus on a regular basis, making it a common ailment. 

Common causes of tinnitus

Nearly every reason that tinnitus occurs is due to the brain’s reaction to a loss of hearing. As the auditory input to the brain is decreased, it creates a new sensation to take the place of what it expects; the brain forms new neural connections as it decides how to process different sound frequencies. 

There is both temporary tinnitus, which lasts less than three months and chronic tinnitus which is frequent and long-lasting. Typically, acute tinnitus is due to excessive noise exposure, which causes hair cells inside of the cochlea to bend down, but eventually, stand straight back up. If the noise is too intense or for a prolonged period of time, some of those cells will die, causing hearing loss occurs. If your hearing loss is due to something like earwax impaction, simply having the hardened earwax professionally removed by an audiologist will improve your hearing and can also reduce tinnitus associated with hearing loss. 

Two causes that may cause tinnitus and are not directly related to hearing loss include temporomandibular joint disorders and circulatory issues. Additional medical issues including anemia and head trauma can cause tinnitus, and can be a side effect of certain medications including antibiotics, water pills, malaria medication and chemotherapy.  

Diagnosing tinnitus

The first step in managing tinnitus is diagnosing the potential cause and method of treatment

An audiologist will evaluate your ears, as well as your head and neck to identify potential causes for tinnitus and hearing loss, as well as administer an audiological exam.  If hearing loss is present, this can influence how treatment is administered. By having you move your neck, clench your jaw and move your eyes, the audiologist can help identify if there is an underlying cause to your tinnitus not directly associated with hearing loss. 

The audiologist will likely have you define what type of buzzing or ringing you hear, from low-pitched ringing to rushing sounds, to those of clicking and high-pitched ringing. Each of these may point to different causes of tinnitus. 

Steps to manage tinnitus

The next steps to manage your tinnitus will depend on the diagnosis your audiologist presents. Hearing loss can usually be improved with hearing aids, while other suggestions such as the following may also be recommended:

  • Reduce stress: Stress management is believed to reduce tinnitus, but the reduction can be quite subtle and varies from person to person. 
  • Avoid potential triggers or irritants: The three most common outside irritants that cause an increase in tinnitus are loud noises, caffeine and nicotine. Avoid these as much as possible to reduce flares of tinnitus.  
  • Reduce alcohol consumption: Since alcohol dilates blood vessels, blood flow increases in the inner ear, which may make tinnitus worse. 
  • Improve hearing loss with hearing aids: If you are a candidate for hearing aids, this can have two benefits. The first is that your hearing can be improved. The second is that since tinnitus is associated with the brain creating sounds it expects to be there when the sounds are re-introduced, this can often have a positive effect on tinnitus. Managing your hearing loss is one direct way to also manage your tinnitus.
  • Turn a fan on or use a white noise machine: If you find falling asleep difficult, it may be because there is less noise to distract you from your tinnitus when you close your eyes each evening. Using a mild white noise machine, a clicking tock or some light music can help to distract you from any ringing. 
  • Take any medication prescribed to you at regular intervals: Since tinnitus can be associated with various health issues, taking prescribed medications regularly may reduce the tinnitus you experience. 
  • You may be a candidate for Tricyclic antidepressants to reduce your tinnitus, but there is limited evidence for the efficacy of such treatments.
  • Reduce congestion by sleeping slightly elevated.

If you would like to learn more about Rametta Audiology & Hearing Aid Center, call the office most convenient to you, either our Tarentum office at 724-224-6811, or our Vandergrift office at 724-567-7381. Our audiologists can assist you in putting together a plan to manage your tinnitus.