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.

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 effectual and, frequently, achieve the impossible.

Invisible health problems, unfortunately, are equally as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is an incredibly common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it daily.

While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not really there.

In most situations, tinnitus will come and go quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a little irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? 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.

Sometimes, it may be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other cases. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it might cause some inflammation. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
  • 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 big part of the picture here. In other words, they both 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.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to address this.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
  • 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 triggers ringing in your ears.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Wearing ear protection if exceptionally loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.

If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment may become easier. For example, 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 identified for some individuals.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. That said, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.

But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will execute a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.

Treating tinnitus

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

If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily addressed.

For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. We can help in many ways. Among the most common are the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
  • A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
  • A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices can be adjusted to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less noticeable.

The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get 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 act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. 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.


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