Tinnitus Might be Invisible but its Impact Can be Significant

Upset woman suffering from tinnitus laying in bed on her stomach with a pillow folded over the top of her head and ears.

Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.

Invisible health problems, regrettably, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how well you might look, there are no outward symptoms.

But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be considerable.

What is tinnitus?

One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).

While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Noises like 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.

In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition. Sure, it can be a little annoying 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 significantly affected.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a large number of causes.

Sometimes, it may be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other cases. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears could begin to ring.
  • Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing goes away when you quit taking the medication in question.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. Using hearing protection if very loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of 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 primary care provider is the best way to address this.

Treatment will obviously be easier if you can determine the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Cleaning out a blockage, for example, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, might never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Having said that, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, complete a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.

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

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

  • A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices generate just the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic strategy designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.

We will create a personalized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!

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

Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. 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) 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.