A Guide to Tinnitus Prevention
The CDC estimates that around 50 million Americans are living with tinnitus. The main symptom of the condition is hearing phantom sounds that have no physical basis. Most commonly, the sound of ringing is heard, though buzzing, beeping, clicking and whistling are also common.
For those who experience tinnitus, the condition can be extremely concerning. People with tinnitus often experience health issues related to the condition, with elevated stress and anxiety levels particularly common. Insomnia – the inability to achieve restorative sleep – can also be problematic.
Given the disruption tinnitus can cause, it is therefore worth considering if it is possible to prevent tinnitus from developing in the first instance.
The challenge of preventing tinnitus
Unlike many health conditions, it is not possible to completely prevent tinnitus. However, the fact that tinnitus cannot be completely prevented does not mean that there is nothing that you can do to lessen your chances of experiencing the condition in the future.
The importance of hearing tests in tinnitus prevention
Another method of preventing tinnitus is to ensure that you attend regular hearing tests with your audiologist. As we have discussed, tinnitus is incredibly common amongst those with hearing loss – and particularly for people with untreated hearing loss. When a person is experiencing untreated hearing loss, their brain can “create” sounds to replace the loss of hearing function – i.e., they develop tinnitus. However, when hearing capabilities are restored via the use of hearing aids, tinnitus can become less problematic or even resolve entirely.
Regular hearing tests will ensure that if you do develop hearing loss in the future, this can be treated as quickly as possible. As a result, regular hearing tests can be considered to be a method of tinnitus prevention.
Good hearing health practices
As we have touched on above, the link between tinnitus and hearing loss is well-established. When seeking to prevent tinnitus, it may also be helpful to consider whether it is possible to prevent hearing loss itself. If you can prevent hearing loss, then this may also serve as a way of preventing – or at least reducing the chances – of tinnitus too.
Regrettably, it is not believed to be possible to prevent hearing loss completely – but, as with tinnitus itself, it may be possible to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition with good hearing health practices. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- When listening to music, use headphones rather than earbuds, and keep the volume setting to below 60% of the total available
- It is also helpful to take breaks when listening to music to give your ears a chance to rest
- Wear ear protection – such as earplugs, earmuffs or both – when attending loud events, such as concerts or sports games
- Use ear protection if you work in a noisy environment and when using loud household machinery, such as the lawnmower or snowblower
- Avoid medications that are classed as ototoxic (potentially harmful to hearing) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. If you are prescribed an ototoxic medication, then consider asking your doctor if there are any alternative options available.
While it is not currently possible to definitively prevent tinnitus in all cases, regular hearing tests and caring for your hearing health can provide the best opportunity to reduce your risk.