Plainsboro and Monroe, NJ

Plainsboro and Monroe, NJ

Tinnitus: The Invisible Condition with a Big Impact

Princeton Otolaryngology Associates: Dr. Scott L. Kay | Tinnitus Articles

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 potent tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, achieve the impossible.

Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are just as potent and much less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no external symptoms.

But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be significant.

Tinnitus – what is it?

So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (somewhere around 25 million people experience tinnitus yearly).

There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people could hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t actually there.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is annoying, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound never goes away? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.

In some cases, it might be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other situations. Here are some general things that can cause tinnitus:

  • 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 common. The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to stay away from overly loud locations (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large 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.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears could start ringing.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are usually tinnitus and dizziness. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to consult your doctor in order to help control your blood pressure.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will usually go away.

If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment might become easier. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some individuals.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

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 happens frequently). Still, getting regular hearing assessments is always a smart plan.

But you should certainly schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it keeps coming back. We will execute a hearing examination, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.

Treating tinnitus

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

If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, like 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 fixed.

For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. amongst the most prevalent are the following:

  • 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 apparent when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
  • A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.

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

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

Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Odds 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 growing worse. You should at least be sure 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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