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 potent tool. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.

Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is an exceptionally common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no outward symptoms.

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

What is tinnitus?

One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that about 25 million people 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 aren’t real sounds at all.

For most people, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a lasting and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a little irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.

The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. But you may never really know in other situations. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:

  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the picture here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to address this.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Wearing ear protection if extremely loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Usually, that ringing goes away when you quit using the medication in question.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears might start ringing.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to appear. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.
  • Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.

If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, treatment may become easier. Clearing a blockage, for example, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some individuals.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.

However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come 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 affected, perform a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.

Treating tinnitus

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

If your tinnitus is due to an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will result in a noticeable difference in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most common:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to 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 hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the outside world.
  • 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 conspicuous.

The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.

What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?

Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front 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.