Tips for Managing Tinnitus

Tips for Managing Tinnitus

Do you hear a constant “ringing” sound in your ears? Or maybe a buzzing, clicking, or screeching sound?

While some 50 million Americans have experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives, only about 15 million seek medical assistance with it. Tinnitus is the #1 medical concern affecting veterans returning from active duty, above hearing loss.

Some people who suffer from tinnitus hear a ringing sound all day, every day. Others may hear a chainsaw-like sound that comes and goes. Still others hear a pulsing sound that coincides with their heartbeat. 

Tinnitus is a symptom, not an ailment in itself. There can be a number of underlying causes of tinnitus. The most common reason people experience tinnitus is hearing loss, often related to prolonged noise exposure. Several drugs—both prescription and OTC—can also bring about tinnitus. Sometimes it is related to TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, a damaged eardrum, or even built-up earwax. Cardiovascular issues, Lyme disease, and acoustic neuromas can also be the root cause of tinnitus.

In most tinnitus cases, a root cause is never found. Many people with minor tinnitus are not very bothered by it. They may hear a ringing in quiet moments but don’t notice it throughout the day when other sounds are louder. Some people are annoyed by their tinnitus but are able to experience relief using a number of strategies. A small minority of people have debilitating tinnitus that can result in mental health issues and is damagingly disruptive to their lives.

If you have tinnitus, consider the tips below and take steps to get the help you need to live more comfortably with your tinnitus.

Visit the Doctor

Your doctor may be able to identify a medication, find an earwax blockage or eardrum perforation, or otherwise discover the root cause of your tinnitus and treat it. If they do not see an obvious cause, they may refer you to a specialist who can investigate further. If there is a curable, underlying cause of your tinnitus, you may be able to get rid of it. Seeing your doctor is the first step in tinnitus management!

Consider Your Medications and Chemical Exposures

There are over 590 commonly-used substances that can trigger tinnitus. Among these are OTC pain medications, antibiotics, and prescription drugs for cancer, heart disease, and depression. Sometimes a combination of drugs can cause it. If your tinnitus has started shortly after beginning a new course of medications or herbal supplements, talk to your doctor about the possibility of switching treatments.


Masking is the most common—and usually the most effective—means of treating tinnitus. It is accomplished by simply introducing sound into your environment to cover up the sound of your tinnitus. Preferences differ in terms of the sounds you use, but many people find relief by turning on a box fan, running a soothing sound generator, playing recordings from nature, or even putting on old, familiar episodes of television shows.

Most people’s tinnitus is most bothersome at night when there is very little external sound to naturally mask tinnitus. If your tinnitus prevents you from getting the sleep you need, nighttime masking can be a lifesaver.

Reduce Stress

We know—easier said than done. Lack of sleep, anxiety, and frustration can increase the severity of tinnitus, as well as the toll it takes on our mental health. In turn, we get less sleep, which can introduce a vicious cycle. If you feel you may be experiencing additional stress t at least in part due to your tinnitus, counseling may help you learn how to live more comfortably with tinnitus. Some people have had excellent results treating debilitating tinnitus with a combination of therapy and meditation.

Consider Hearing Aids

Hearing aids can help people who suffer from tinnitus accompanied by a hearing loss. If you have mild-or-greater hearing loss, you should be wearing hearing aids whether you have tinnitus or not. Hearing aids amplify ambient sound, which can mask tinnitus during the day while also helping you to hear the sounds that are important to you. Some hearing aids also have built-in tinnitus masking sounds that can be turned on or off as desired and can be tuned specifically to address your tinnitus as unobtrusively as possible.

If you have tinnitus and/or hearing loss, or if you’re just due for a hearing test, make an appointment today and take charge of your hearing health!

Kenneth H. Wood, BC-HIS

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