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

Unfortunately, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. As an illustration, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing disorder. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.

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

What is tinnitus?

So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. 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 fairly common (somewhere around 25 million people experience tinnitus yearly).

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds of things. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.

For most individuals, 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 persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is irritating, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? It’s easy to see how that might begin to significantly affect your quality of life.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you might never really know. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Using hearing protection if extremely loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the situation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Among the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. With time, Meniere’s disease can cause permanent hearing loss.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to check with your doctor in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.

If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treating it may become easier. Clearing a blockage, for example, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, may never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). That said, it’s never a bad idea to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.

However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will conduct a hearing screening, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.

How is tinnitus treated?

There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be controlled.

If your tinnitus is due to a root condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.

So managing symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the objective if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. 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 may be hearing from your tinnitus.
  • A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.

The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the goal here.

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

Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You might be able to prevent your symptoms from worsening if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission. The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a hearing aid consultation, call today to schedule an appointment.