When you have tinnitus -- or ringing in your ears -- your doctor will try to find the cause for the sounds you hear. He’ll check your ears, give you a hearing test, and likely do other tests, too.
But whether you find the cause or not, there are things you can do to ease the sound and even keep it from getting worse.
Protect yourself from loud noises: They can both cause tinnitus and make it worse. Avoid concerts, sporting events, and noisy machinery. If you can't stay away or if the noise is part of your job, take care of your ears. Wear earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to them. If you use headphones to listen to music, keep the sound turned down low.
Get enough sleep: Fatigue can trigger tinnitus or make the ringing seem worse. Make sure you get enough shuteye. That’s around 8 hours a night for adults. If you need help, ask your doctor for tips to help you sleep.
Try white noise: You can get a machine that plays a constant low-level background sound. It covers the ringing in your ears. You can listen while you’re trying to go to sleep. You can also get a gadget called a sound masker. You wear it in or behind your ear. It makes a constant noise to help block the ringing.
Wear your hearing aids: Lots of people need them but don’t wear them. But they can help you tune out tinnitus.
Ease stress: It can make tinnitus worse. Find ways to relax and manage your worries. Deep breathing, exercise, and biofeedback might all help. So could massage or acupuncture. If you have trouble, your doctor can give you relaxation ideas.
Switch to decaf: Do you rely on high-octane coffee, soda, or energy drinks to get through the day? Cut back on caffeine and see if the ringing gets better. Some people say it make their tinnitus worse. But one study found that women who drank more caffeine were less likely to have tinnitus. See what works for you.
Kick the habit: Nicotine in cigarettes and other products often makes tinnitus worse. Smoking affects the blood vessels that bring oxygen to your ears. It can also boost your blood pressure.
Cut back on alcohol: Booze spikes your blood pressure, too. That can make the ringing easier to notice. Limit or quit alcohol. See if that helps.
See your doctor: Often tinnitus is a side effect of a medication or a symptom of some other condition. It could be something as simple as too much earwax. Or it could just be a result of allergies or a sinus or ear infection. Your doctor can help figure out if there's something else going on. A medicine change or ear cleaning might be all it takes to stop the noise.