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.

Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. The characters can often do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.

Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an exceptionally common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no outward symptoms.

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

Tinnitus – what is it?

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

There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Some individuals may hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.

For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.

What causes tinnitus?

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, although the symptoms might be common, the causes are extensive.

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

  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
  • Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the equation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears may begin to ring.
  • Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally tinnitus and dizziness. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.
  • Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will usually go away.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus could be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to handle this.
  • Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some swelling. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
  • Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Using ear protection if extremely loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.

If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treating it could become easier. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.

How is tinnitus diagnosed?

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it recedes, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). Still, getting regular hearing exams is always a smart plan.

But you should absolutely schedule 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 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 has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.

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

For those 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. There are many things that we can do to help. amongst the most prevalent are the following:

  • A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the external world.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
  • 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.

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

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

Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.

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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