Tinnitus: The Invisible Condition with a Huge 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 really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, frequently, accomplish the impossible.

Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no outward symptoms.

But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be substantial.

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a silent 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 daily.

While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some people might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a little irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound never goes away? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.

The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. But you might never really know in other cases. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:

  • Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will normally go away.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so common that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud locations (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to check with your physician in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the situation here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
  • Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some inflammation. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.

If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treatment might become simpler. Cleaning out a blockage, for example, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, may never know what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place frequently). Still, getting regular hearing assessments is always a good idea.

But you should certainly schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it continues to come back. We will conduct a hearing examination, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.

If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then addressing that underlying condition will result in a noticeable difference in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily addressed.

So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal affect on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:

  • A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less noticeable when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.

We will formulate an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!

What should you do if you have tinnitus?

Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to stop them from getting worse. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.

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.