When you first hear that ringing in your ears you may have a very typical reaction: pretend everything’s fine. You go through your day the same way you always do: you have a conversation with friends, go to the store, and make lunch. In the meantime, you’re trying to force that ringing in your ear to the back of your mind. Because there is one thing you feel certain of: your tinnitus will fade away on its own.
After a few more days of unremitting buzzing and ringing, though, you start to have doubts.
You aren’t the only person to ever find yourself in this position. At times tinnitus stops on its own, and other times it will linger on and that’s why it’s a tricky little disorder.
The Condition of Temporary Tinnitus
Around the world, almost everybody has had a bout of tinnitus because it’s very common. Tinnitus is a temporary condition, in most situations, and will ultimately vanish on its own. A rock concert is an excellent example: you go see Bruce Springsteen at your local arena (it’s a good show) and when you go home, you realize that there is ringing in your ears.
Within a couple of days the kind of tinnitus associated with injury from loud noise will commonly fade away (and you chalk it up to the price of seeing your favorite band on stage).
Over time hearing loss can develop from temporary or “acute” to permanent or “chronic” because of this exact kind of damage. Too many of those types of concerts and you might wind up with permanent tinnitus.
When Tinnitus Doesn’t Seem to be Going Away on its own
If your tinnitus doesn’t diminish (with help or on its own) within the span of three months or so, the condition is then categorized as chronic tinnitus (this does not, however, mean that you should wait three months to consult with an expert about lingering ringing, buzzing, or thumping in your ears).
Something like 5-15% of individuals globally have reported symptoms of chronic tinnitus. The precise causes of tinnitus are still not very well known although there are some known connections (such as loss of hearing).
When the causes of your tinnitus aren’t obvious, it usually means that a fast “cure” will be elusive. If your ears have been ringing for more than three months and there’s no recognizable cause, there’s a good possibility that the sound will not subside on its own. In those cases, there are treatment options available (such as cognitive behavioral therapy or noise-canceling devices) that can help you manage symptoms and preserve your quality of life.
The Reason For Your Tinnitus is Relevant
When you can identify the root cause of your tinnitus, dealing with the condition suddenly becomes a lot simpler. For example, if your tinnitus is created by a persistent, bacterial ear infection, treatment with an antibiotic will tend to solve both problems, leading to a healthy ear and clear hearing.
Some causes of acute tinnitus may consist of:
- Chronic ear infections
- Meniere’s disease (this is often associated with chronic tinnitus, as Meniere’s has no cure)
- A blockage in the ear or ear canal
- Loss of hearing (again, this is often associated with chronic tinnitus)
- Damage to the eardrum (such as a perforated eardrum)
The Big Question…Will my Tinnitus Ever go Away?
In general, your tinnitus will recede on its own. But the longer it hangs around, the longer you hear reverberations or humming or whatever the sound happens to be, the more likely it becomes that you’re coping with chronic tinnitus.
You believe that if you simply ignore it should vanish on its own. But there could come a point where your tinnitus starts to become distressing, where it’s hard to focus because the sound is too disruptive. And in those cases, you might want a treatment strategy more comprehensive than crossing your fingers.
In most instances, however, in fact, throughout most of your life, your tinnitus will normally go away on its own, a normal reaction to a loud environment (and your body’s method of letting you know to stay away from that environment from now on). Whether that’s acute or chronic tinnitus, well, only time will tell.