Tinnitus: The Invisible Condition with a Big Impact

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 formidable tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, frequently, accomplish the impossible.

Invisible health conditions, regrettably, are equally as potent and much less fun. As an illustration, tinnitus is an extremely common hearing condition. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no outward symptoms.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million people experience it daily.

There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.

For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a lasting and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound never goes away? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Maybe 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 issue. The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.

The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you may never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:

  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing goes away once you quit taking the medication in question.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are usually tinnitus and dizziness. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. The best way to counter this type of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively loud locations (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus could be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the situation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this inflammation.

Treatment will obviously be easier if you can determine the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can reduce your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some people.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

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

However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will execute a hearing test, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.

How is tinnitus treated?

Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.

If you’re taking a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

For those who have chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. In these cases, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower 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 boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.

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

If you have tinnitus, what should you do?

Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be certain to have your ear protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.

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

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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