Tinnitus is the experience of hearing sounds in the ears or head, but with no external source. It’s usually mild, but in severe cases it can be extremely disruptive, causing stress, anxiety and loss of sleep.

Tinnitus is usually a symptom of an underlying problem with the hearing system, so it is not always preventable. However, there are lots of ways you can protect yourself from the most common causes of tinnitus.

Here are some tips on how to prevent tinnitus in your daily life…

Limit exposure to loud noises.

This doesn’t mean that life has to be quiet- in fact, listening to music is actually proven to help with relaxation!

Volume is key: standing close to loud speakers, or listening through earphones at a very high volume can cause internal damage to the hearing system. Many devices and music apps will warn you when the sound is getting too high. It’s always tempting to ignore this warning! But just turning it down a bit can reduce the risk of tinnitus.

Of course, you can’t always avoid being in a loud environment, but there are still ways you can protect your ears from damage. For example, taking regular breaks can help your ears to cope with loud noises, and will probably save you some headaches.

It might also be worth investing in some good-quality earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, but these should only be used in safe, private spaces. Navigating public places or busy roads with noise-cancelling headphones can be very dangerous!

Reduce the risk of ear blockages or infection.

Ear infections are another very common cause of tinnitus. Unfortunately, they can’t always be avoided, but just by regularly cleaning hearing aids, earphones and earplugs, you can protect your ears from germs and infections.

You should never push objects in to your ears. Even just using a cotton bud can risk both introducing an infection to the ear or causing internal damage. If you are worried about wax build up, visit your local pharmacist for some wax-removal drops.

Be aware of medication side effects.

Many commonly prescribed medications are known as ‘ototoxic.’ This does not mean that they are bad or seriously harmful, but they can have an adverse affect on the ears, making tinnitus more likely.

Common ototoxic medicines include:

  • Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
  • Certain antibiotics.
  • Psychiatric medicines such as anti-depressants.
  • ‘Travel’ drugs such as anti-malarials.

These drugs can be vital to your health and well-being, so it is unwise to simply stop taking them.  Sometimes, it may be possible to change to an alternative medication if you do start experiencing tinnitus, but this should always be checked with a doctor or pharmacist.

If it is necessary for you to take medications with ototoxic side effects regularly, it is still useful to be aware of tinnitus so that you can recognise it early.

Look after your general well-being

As well as an illness or infection, tinnitus and stress often go hand in hand. It is often not possible to simply get rid of the source of stress, but making some active lifestyle changes can really help to give your brain a break.

There are many ways of handling stress, from the common methods of yoga and meditation, to slightly more out-there techniques, like martial arts.  Check out this article for some local accessible exercise clubs in North Yorkshire!

A healthy diet (balanced with a good amount of cake, obviously) and a regular sleeping pattern can also do wonders for the body and brain. Sometimes it might seem hard to imagine how eating a banana could be good for your ears, but trust me it does all link up eventually.

Get it off your chest!

Isolation can cause stress and stress can cause isolation. It’s a cycle that is especially easy to get caught in for people with disabilities and sensory impairments. There are lots of accessible social clubs around York that always welcome new members. Or, if you’re looking for something more casual, try the monthly Wilberforce Trust Connect Café to meet some friendly faces and get things off your chest.

Remember, you mental well-being can have a huge impact on your physical health, so if you are worried about your mental health contact your GP.

Want more information about tinnitus? Take a look at the Wilberforce Trust’s handy guide, or visit the British Tinnitus Association website.