What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is any noise in your ears or head without an external sound source. It is usually described as a ringing in the ears but can take many forms, including roaring, whistling, clicking, whooshing, humming, or buzzing. There are two types of tinnitus – objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus is defined as tinnitus that is audible to another person as a sound emanating from the ear canal. Subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the patient. We will only be covering subjective tinnitus.
Many people think of subjective tinnitus as a condition, but it is actually a symptom of another underlying medical problem. It may be caused by hearing loss, aging, noise exposure, infection, allergies, earwax, drugs, foreign objects in the ears, and more. Often, the exact cause is never determined, but about 80% of pts with hearing loss experience tinnitus.
Tinnitus is generated in the brain, not in the ear. It is located near the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center. Severe tinnitus has often been linked to depression and anxiety disorders. It also can severely impede sleep, which leads to daytime fatigue, memory lapses, and concentration difficulties.
There is no cure for tinnitus, but we have compiled at-home remedies and treatments that can help make it a lot more bearable.
Find Out What Your Tinnitus Triggers Are
One of the simplest ways to manage your tinnitus is to avoid things you know will trigger it. Potential triggers include:
- Exposure to very loud noise (from things like construction sites and concerts)
- Certain medications (such as aspirin) that you should discuss with your doctor
- A poor diet
- Certain lifestyle habits (including smoking and alcohol consumption)
- Lack of sleep
Get Rid of Earwax
Some people report that their tinnitus is louder when their ears are full of wax. While it can be tempting to try and clean your ears at home, never try to remove the actual earwax yourself with your finger or a cotton bud, as this can push earwax further into the ear canal, leading to impaction. This will likely worsen your tinnitus and cause hearing loss if not treated.
Your ears should naturally clear wax on their own, slowly pushing it out the ear for you to wipe away. If you have a serious issue with earwax blocking your ear, you should get the help of a medical professional to remove it safely.
Manage Stress Levels
Stress can make tinnitus worse. Stress management, whether through relaxation therapy, biofeedback or exercise, may provide some relief.
Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
These substances, especially when used excessively, can affect blood flow and contribute to tinnitus.
Masking techniques, or noise suppression, are designed to draw the brain’s attention away from the underlying tinnitus.
If you’d like to find a way to shift your focus away from the actual sound of your tinnitus, playing background music or ambient sounds is a cheap and easy method used by many people with tinnitus. Known as sound therapy, the goal is to draw your attention away from the ringing in your ear and provide relief from the burden of constant unpleasant noise.
This simple distraction technique can have powerful effects, with individuals reporting that sound therapy has helped them dampen their negative thoughts about tinnitus.
Get Eight Hours of Sleep
Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, as fatigue is known to worsen symptoms.
Use High-Fidelity Earplugs.
Tinnitus often starts mild but may grow progressively worse over time, so you should make every effort to preserve what good hearing you have left. Protecting your ears when you are exposed to loud noise is essential. Standard earplugs you can pick up in any drugstore are okay but can distort and muffle sounds. High-fidelity earplugs solve this problem by relying on attenuators that reduce volume levels evenly, enabling you to better understand speech and enjoy music. For an even better fit and maximum protection, have your audiologist order a custom pair made from impressions of your ear canals.
Finally, Ask for Help If You Need It
Don’t struggle with tinnitus alone. While home remedies for tinnitus do exist, they may not be enough. Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor for treatment and next steps.