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 power. 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, achieve the impossible.

Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are equally as potent and much less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is an incredibly common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.

But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be substantial.

What is tinnitus?

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

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some people could hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t actually there.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go really quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially affected.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever tried to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? The difficulty is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.

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

  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! Wearing ear protection if very loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
  • Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Typically, that ringing subsides when you stop taking the medication in question.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears may start ringing.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to check with your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the picture here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it might cause some swelling. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.

Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can identify the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some people.

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 happens often). Still, having regular hearing exams is always a good idea.

But you should certainly schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away 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, perform a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.

Treating tinnitus

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

If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily fixed.

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. amongst the most prevalent are the following:

  • 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 unique tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less noticeable.
  • A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.

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!

If you have tinnitus, what should you do?

Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your symptoms will most likely 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 get yourself hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.

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.