Tinnitus Might 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.

Regrettably, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is an exceptionally common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.

But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be substantial.

Tinnitus – what is it?

So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that 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 that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals could hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not actually there.

In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a bit annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially affected.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? The difficulty is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.

Sometimes, it might be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you may never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:

  • Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
  • Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. As a result, your ears might start ringing.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. Wearing ear protection if exceptionally loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to consult your physician in order to help manage your blood pressure.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
  • Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.

If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become easier. Cleaning out a blockage, for instance, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, might never know what causes their tinnitus symptoms.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.

But you should definitely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it continues to come back. We will conduct a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

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

If your tinnitus is due to an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then addressing that underlying condition will result in an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most common:

  • A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be calibrated to your specific tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.

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

If you have 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 likely 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 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.

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