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 often 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.

Invisible health problems, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. As an illustration, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).

There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not really there.

For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The same goes for tinnitus, although the symptoms might be common, the causes are widespread.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. But you might never really know in other situations. In general, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:

  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. As a result, your ears may start ringing.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • 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 very prevalent. The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to steer clear of excessively loud places (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to handle this.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Typically, that ringing subsides once you quit taking the medication in question.
  • Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.

Treatment will clearly be easier if you can figure out the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing a blockage, for example, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, might never recognize what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it goes away, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs often). Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a good idea.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will execute a hearing screening, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

Tinnitus is not a condition that has a cure. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.

If your tinnitus is due to a root condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily addressed.

For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure 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 masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less obvious when your hearing aid boosts 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 is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.

We will formulate a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.

What should you do if you have tinnitus?

Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. You might be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. 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) 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.