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 really useful power in the movies. 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, accomplish the impossible.

Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. As an illustration, tinnitus is a very common hearing condition. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no outward symptoms.

But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a substantial impact on those who experience symptoms.

What is tinnitus?

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 sometimes 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).

There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t actually there.

For most people, 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 annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? It’s easy to see how that could begin to significantly affect your quality of life.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The difficulty is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.

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

  • Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this inflammation.
  • High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be caused by high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to consult your primary care provider in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will typically subside.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very common. The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud places (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
  • 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 occur over time.

If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become simpler. Clearing a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, may never recognize what causes their tinnitus symptoms.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). Still, having regular hearing tests is always a good idea.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should make an appointment 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 affected, complete a hearing exam, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.

If you’re using 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 root condition that can be easily corrected.

So controlling symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots 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 can be calibrated to your specific tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.

We will develop a personalized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!

If you have tinnitus, what should you do?

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 might be able to prevent your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing 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.