It’s enough to drive you batty – that persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing or chirping sound in your ears. Luckily, the condition known as tinnitus can be managed with specially designed hearing aids that allow patients to adjust their preferred sound stimulus. But as they say, prevention is the best cure. Fortunately, several of the most common causes of tinnitus are preventable.
The delicate hairs located in your inner ear move with the pressure of sound waves. That movement triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal via an auditory nerve to your brain. Tinnitus occurs when those tiny hairs are bent or broken, sending random electrical pulses to your brain.
Common preventable causes of tinnitus include:
- Exposure to loud noise from heavy equipment, firearms and extended listening to loud music, especially through earphones;
- Earwax buildup and blockage. The purpose of earwax is to protect your ear canal by trapping dust and dirt, and to impede bacterial growth. But when too much earwax accumulates, it can be tough to wash away naturally;
- Taking medications including certain antibiotics, cancer medications, water pills, quinine medications and antidepressants, or taking aspirin in unusually high doses;
- Head or neck injuries, often caused by falls, automobile accidents or failure to wear proper safety gear when playing sports;
- Repeated movement or exercise that places the neck in a hyper-extended position, such as when riding a bicycle;
- Severe weight loss from malnutrition or excessive dieting;
- High blood pressure, often brought on by stress;
- Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
Protect your ears by wearing earplugs when you know you’ll be around heavy equipment or firearms; playing music at a reasonable volume and avoiding wearing earphones; varying your exercise routine; managing stress and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake. If you do develop persistent tinnitus, call 904-461-6060 and schedule an appointment with a specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.