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 really useful power in the movies. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.

Regrettably, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. 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 individuals who experience symptoms.

What is tinnitus?

So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. 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. Now, tinnitus is fairly common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).

While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some people might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all kinds of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t actually there.

In most cases, tinnitus will go away over a short period. But tinnitus is a persistent and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Here’s one way to think about it: 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 substantially affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.

Sometimes, it might be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a large part of the equation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
  • Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing disappears once you quit using the medication in question.
  • High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be the result of high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to consult your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to appear. With time, Meniere’s disease can result in irreversible hearing loss.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This often causes ringing in your ears.
  • 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! Using hearing protection if exceedingly loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it may cause some swelling. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.

Treatment will clearly be easier if you can pinpoint the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. Some people, however, might never know what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). That said, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.

However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, complete a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.

Treating tinnitus

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

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

For those with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. We can help in a variety of ways. Among the most common 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 create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
  • 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.

The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective 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 might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. You should at least be certain 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) make 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.