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 formidable tool. 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 disorders, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.

But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on people who experience symptoms.

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we know 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 that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).

There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some individuals might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.

In most situations, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is annoying, 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 significantly affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the issue. 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 truly know. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! Wearing hearing protection if extremely loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to appear. Over time, Meniere’s disease can cause irreversible hearing loss.

Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can identify the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. Some people, however, might never recognize what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it recedes, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.

But you should certainly make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it keeps coming back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, do a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.

If you’re taking a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

So managing symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the objective if you have chronic tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Among the most prevalent are the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. The buzzing or ringing will be less obvious when your hearing aid increases 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 can be calibrated to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less obvious.

The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!

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

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 prevent 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 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.