With over 20% of Americans reporting some form of tinnitus, this bothersome buzzing is quite a common problem. Unfortunately, tinnitus is often ignored and overlooked by many people suffering from the condition. It is estimated to affect up to 50 million people, leading to trouble sleeping, worsening quality of life, and even mental distress. To keep the humming at bay, here are three easy ways to lower your risk of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears that is not actually present. This ringing is most commonly caused by damage to tiny fragile sensory cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. These cells intake sound and convert them into electrical impulses that are sent to the auditory system of the brain that is then translated into the sounds we hear every day. Our fragile sensory cells can be damaged in numerous ways, such as exposure to loud volumes, a lack of healthy blood flow to the ear, or medications that are considered ototoxic.
When we talk about tinnitus, we usually think of being exposed to loud noises like rock concerts or sports stadiums, followed by a night of constant ringing in the ears. Though it’s not the only way tinnitus can occur, exposure to damaging volumes is an extremely common way that tinnitus starts. Prolonged exposure to volumes over 85 decibels can be harmful to the ears, damaging fragile hair cells in the cochlea that sends auditory information to the brain. Unfortunately, damage to these hair cells is irreversible. When exposed to volumes that could be unhealthy, it’s important that you wear proper protection such as earplugs.
Tinnitus can be caused by many other factors other than exposure to loud noises, including our diet. Research has linked iron deficiency, magnesium deficiency, a lack of vitamins A and E, and many other vitamins and minerals to tinnitus and hearing loss. Having a well-balanced diet and taking supplements as needed can ensure your hearing health is protected for the longevity of your life.
Maintaining a healthy body includes more than just your diet though, as some bad habits can cause tinnitus as well. Smoking, alcohol, and even too much sugar has been linked to worsening tinnitus symptoms.
Unfortunately, the medication that is prescribed to help you with one condition can sometimes be the cause of another. Hundreds of medicines are known to exacerbate or trigger tinnitus, including hide-dose antibiotics and antidepressants. That is because these medications are Ototoxic, or “toxic to the ear”, usually to the cochlea or the auditory nerve. Even regular aspirin can cause damage to the ears in the right dosage.
To make sure your medications are not causing tinnitus, speak to your doctor or a hearing health professional about the possible side-effects of your prescriptions. You may be able to reduce the dosage or change to another drug that does not have the same side-effects. If your tinnitus is medication-induced, a simple drug change can make all the difference.