If you are one of the 50 million Americans in Tucson and throughout the United States who experiences tinnitus, you are no doubt familiar with (and exasperated by) that annoyingly persistent ringing in the ears. It may be interfering with your sleep and causing you anxiety, irritability, and depression. Unfortunately, although researchers are working diligently to find a cure for tinnitus, there is currently none available. In order to help you find relief from its bothersome side effects – and, let’s face it, to help you preserve your sanity – it is helpful to understand what makes your tinnitus worse. Taking steps to avoid these things can lead to a better quality of life.
Factors That Contribute to Tinnitus
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound despite the absence of any physical sound source. Patients in Tucson and elsewhere describe tinnitus as a ringing, hissing, roaring, or whooshing sound. It can be intermittent or constant and varies in intensity per individual. Regardless of whether your tinnitus is a periodic nuisance or a full-time distraction, you are probably eager to minimize its effects on your life. The following factors can all contribute to making your tinnitus worse.
- Loud sounds can make your tinnitus even more bothersome. Traffic, loud music, construction – all of these can worsen tinnitus. Be sure to wear earplugs or another type of ear protection in order to prevent noise from making your tinnitus worse.
- Many medications are ototoxic, meaning they cause temporary (or, in some cases, permanent) damage to your hearing. Over 200 drugs have been classified as having ototoxic side effects; the list is extensive and includes antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) and chemotherapy drugs. If you suspect medications are contributing to your tinnitus, see if your doctor can recommend alternatives.
- Stress can make that ringing in your ears louder; unfortunately, that very ringing is probably leading to stress in the first place. In order to battle this vicious circle, try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or meditation. Massage or acupuncture might also help relieve your stress.
- When it comes to earwax, there can be too much of a good thing. Sometimes excess earwax can worsen your tinnitus. Check with your doctor to see if there is a buildup of wax in your ears. If so, have them remove it safely – never rely on Q-tips or cotton swabs to do it yourself, as that increases the likelihood of impacted earwax and possible damage to your eardrum.
- A viral or bacterial infection can lead to an increase in tinnitus symptoms. If you have recently suffered from a cold or other illness, you should see improvement in a few days. If not, make an appointment with your doctor.
- Seasonal allergies can also contribute to your tinnitus. Try allergy medications to see if they help combat the problem. If over-the-counter drugs aren’t doing the trick, consider visiting an allergist for a long-term solution.
- As nice as it can be to kick back with a cold beer or other alcoholic beverage, doing so can raise your blood pressure, making your tinnitus more noticeable. Consider cutting back or giving up alcohol altogether to find relief.
- In addition to the many other health complications associated with nicotine, it can also worsen your tinnitus. Do your body a favor and give up the habit.