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 starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, often, accomplish the impossible.

Regrettably, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.

But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be considerable.

What is tinnitus?

So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. 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 individuals experience it every day.

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

In most situations, 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 occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The same goes for tinnitus, although the symptoms might be common, the causes are extensive.

The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. But you may never really know in other cases. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to consult your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears could start ringing.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close association 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 picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Typically, that ringing goes away when you quit using the medication in question.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to stay away from overly loud locations (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this inflammation.
  • Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.

If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment might become simpler. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some individuals.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.

But you should absolutely 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 impacted, complete a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

Treating tinnitus

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

If you’re using a specific medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

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

  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
  • 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 masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your specific tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.

The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-designed 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!

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

Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like 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. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, call 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.