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.

In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. The characters can often do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.

Unfortunately, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. As an illustration, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing disorder. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some individuals might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they’re not real sounds at all.

In most cases, tinnitus will go away over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is irritating, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other situations, you may never truly know. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will typically subside.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the equation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some people. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very common. The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to steer clear of excessively loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can result in irreversible hearing loss.
  • Colds or allergies: Inflammation can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.

Treatment will clearly be easier if you can identify the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. Some individuals, however, might never know what causes their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad plan to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.

However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will perform a hearing examination, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even talk about your medical history. All of that insight will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.

If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.

For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less noticeable when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
  • A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.

We will develop a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.

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

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

If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule 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.