Tinnitus May be Invisible but its Impact Can be Substantial

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

Unfortunately, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you might look, there are no external symptoms.

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

What is tinnitus?

So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, which means 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. Now, tinnitus is quite common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).

While ringing is the most common manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not actually there.

For most people, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go very quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. The difficulty is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.

Sometimes, it might be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are some general things that can trigger tinnitus:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Over time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
  • Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus could be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to consult your physician in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this inflammation.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. This is so common that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Wearing hearing protection if extremely loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
  • 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 could start ringing.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the situation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.

If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, managing it could become simpler. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

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

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will conduct a hearing test, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.

How is tinnitus treated?

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

If you’re using a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you address the underlying cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily corrected.

So controlling symptoms so they have a limited affect on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in many ways. 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 is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. The buzzing or ringing will be less noticeable when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
  • 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.

The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?

Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to prevent them from getting worse. You should at least be certain 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) 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.