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.

In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effectual and, frequently, achieve the impossible.

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

But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a considerable affect on individuals who experience symptoms.

What is tinnitus?

One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. 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 prevalent that about 25 million individuals experience it every day.

There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises like humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go really quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Sure, it can be a little irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound never goes away? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever attempted to determine the cause of a headache? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be evident. In other situations, you may never truly know. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • 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.
  • 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 big part of the situation here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some inflammation. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are among the first symptoms to manifest. With time, Meniere’s disease can result in irreversible hearing loss.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus could be the result of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your physician in order to help manage your blood pressure.
  • Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.

Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can figure out the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing a blockage, for instance, will alleviate 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 subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs often). Having said that, it’s never a bad plan to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.

But you should definitely schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it continues to come back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, complete a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.

How is tinnitus treated?

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

If you’re using a specific 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 fixed.

For people with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most common:

  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. The buzzing or ringing will be less obvious when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
  • 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 substantially less obvious.

We will create an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!

If you have tinnitus, what should you do?

Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Odds are, those symptoms will only grow worse. You might be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, call 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.