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, frequently, accomplish the impossible.

Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

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 return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that about 25 million people experience it daily.

While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they aren’t actual sounds at all.

For most people, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Sure, it can be somewhat irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? it’s not hard to see how that might begin to substantially impact your quality of life.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The same goes for tinnitus, although the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. But you may never really know in other cases. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. The best way to counter this kind of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud locations (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears may start ringing.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will usually go away.
  • High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be the result of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a large part of the situation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • 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 typically tinnitus and dizziness. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. This swelling can cause tinnitus.

Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Cleaning out a blockage, for example, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might 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 exams is always a smart plan.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will execute a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.

Treating tinnitus

There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.

If your tinnitus is a result of a root condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. amongst the most prevalent are the following:

  • A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the outside world.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.

The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. The goal 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?

Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from getting worse. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.

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.