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 very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.

Invisible health problems, regrettably, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no external symptoms.

But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a considerable impact on those who experience symptoms.

What is tinnitus?

One thing we recognize for certain 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 return from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that around 25 million individuals experience it daily.

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all kinds of things. The common denominator is that 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 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 annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? It’s easy to imagine how that might start to substantially impact your quality of life.

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. The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.

The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other situations, you may never really know. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:

  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are typically dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can cause permanent hearing loss.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be the result of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered 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 counter this kind of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud settings (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a large part of the situation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. As a result, your ears could start ringing.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.

Treatment will obviously be easier if you can identify the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can reduce your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some people.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

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 frequently). Still, getting regular hearing exams is always a smart plan.

But you should definitely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will perform a hearing examination, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.

How is tinnitus treated?

Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.

If your tinnitus is a result of an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:

  • A hearing aid: Sometimes, 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 raises the volume of the external world.
  • 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 distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.

The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?

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

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.

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.