Tinnitus: The Invisible Condition with a Big Impact

Upset woman suffering from tinnitus laying in bed on her stomach with a pillow folded over the top of her head and ears.

Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they have the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.

Invisible health problems, regrettably, are just as potent and a lot less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing disorder. Regardless of how well you might look, there are no outward symptoms.

But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a substantial affect on those who experience symptoms.

What is tinnitus?

One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that around 25 million people experience it every day.

There are many other manifestations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Some people could hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they aren’t actual sounds at all.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is irritating, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? Clearly, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The trouble is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, although the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.

Sometimes, it might be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other situations. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to handle this.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using hearing protection if exceptionally loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Typically, that ringing goes away once you stop using the medication in question.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This often causes ringing in your ears.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.

Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can identify the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some individuals.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). Still, getting regular hearing exams is always a good idea.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will execute a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated and it can be managed.

If you’re using a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.

For those who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Among the most common are the following:

  • A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach created to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.

We will formulate a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!

What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?

Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.

If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.