Does tinnitus ever go away?
Having tinnitus is sometimes compared to observing clouds in the sky: sometimes the sky is dark and full of clouds that suggest an impending storm is going to bring thunder, lightening, hail, and a heavy downpour of rain. At other times, the sun is shining brightly and there's not a single cloud in the bright, blue sky.
Similarly, tinnitus can seem overbearing and as if it is "forecasting" a terrible storm.
At other times, it may not be noticeable at all.
So what are the signs that tinnitus is going away, and what should you look out for?
Tinnitus: Does it go away or not?
The goal for anyone with tinnitus is to remember that tinnitus can fluctuate due to a variety of factors and the goal is to achieve more days when the tinnitus is unnoticeable or barely present.
What causes tinnitus in the first place?
Check out this list of tinnitus mindfulness activities to distract yourself when tinnitus is bothersome, as well as positive lifestyle tips for people with tinnitus, to help you achieve more "good" days.
It can be taxing to worry about whether the tinnitus will ever go away.
First, it's good to distinguish if you have temporary or permanent tinnitus.
The following are some tips that can cue you in on whether the tinnitus is temporary or permanent.
Everyone notices sounds in their ears or head every so often.
Tinnitus is perceived or reported by essentially everyone at some time in their lives and it tends to be transient and non-bothersome.
Transient (or temporary) tinnitus is normal and should subside on its on in seconds to minutes.
You may notice brief tinnitus that sounds like:
Or other noises in the ear or head that subside on their own, in the absence of other symptoms.
Signs Your Tinnitus May Be Temporary
- It only lasts seconds to minutes
- It occurs intermittently
- It is soft and easy to ignore
- It does not occur with other symptoms or causes, such as hearing loss or ear fullness
Causes of Temporary Tinnitus
There are medical causes that may underlie tinnitus.
Sometimes, the tinnitus won't improve or go away until the underlying reason for its existence is addressed.
These causes can include:
- Acute middle ear pressure changes triggered by seasonal allergies
- Cerumen (i.e. ear wax) or foreign body in the ears
- Fluid or infection in the middle ear
- Unmanaged cardiovascular or circulatory disorders such as hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Other medical causes
- Idiopathic and benign (i.e. it's unknown why it occurs spontaneously and transiently but it does not suggest abnormal pathology)
There are also non-medical causes of temporary tinnitus which might include:
- Recent exposure to loud or sudden noise
- Change in hearing
Is Tinnitus Permanent?
When tinnitus becomes persistent and/or bothersome, it may be considered a permanent condition.
The good news is that even if you are diagnosed with permanent tinnitus, it tends to improve over time.
Generally, you will become so used to the sound that you will be able to live with tinnitus, particularly with thanks to improved tinnitus treatments.
It's possible that the tinnitus may persist two weeks or longer and be considered chronic or permanent.
Signs Your Tinnitus May Be Permanent
- It lasts longer than two weeks
- It is difficult to ignore
- It is perceived constantly
- It occurs alongside hearing loss or other symptoms
Causes of Permanent Tinnitus
Permanent tinnitus could be related to:
- Hearing loss from natural ageing
- Noise exposure
- Sudden hearing loss
- Autoimmune causes
- Damage to the auditory nerve
How Long Will Tinnitus Last?
How long the tinnitus will last depends on whether it is permanent or not.
Rather than asking how long tinnitus will last, it can be more helpful to ask: "How long will my tinnitus be bothersome or noticeable?"
The answer to this is that it can range from days to longer, and it varies widely from person to person, but it is possible to notice your tinnitus less and less.
However, there are many forms of tinnitus treatment that can help you become less aware and bothered by the tinnitus, even if it's permanent.
If the tinnitus isn't caused by another medical reason, the expectation is that tinnitus awareness will decrease over time.
The following strategies can help you manage your tinnitus so it gets more and more unnoticeable:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for tinnitus
- Use of tinnitus maskers
- Cochlear implant or hearing aids if hearing loss is present
Signs that Tinnitus is Going Away
- It occurs less often and for shorter periods
- It seems softer or less perceivable
- You feel less bothered by it
- You are able to sleep, relax, and concentrate without it interfering
- You have more "good" tinnitus days than "bad" tinnitus days
How To Notice Tinnitus Less Often
Whether the tinnitus is temporary or permanent, you may notice the tinnitus less during these situations:
- Engaged in listening or conversation
- Listening to music or sound therapy for tinnitus.
- When there is ample background / ambient noise
- Actively engaged in an enjoyable activity
- Well rested and not stressed e.g. on vacation
- Using hearing aids if you have hearing loss
Whether the tinnitus is temporary or permanent, you may notice the tinnitus more in these situations:
- In a silent or quiet environment, such as when falling asleep or waking during sleep times
- When you are not engaged in another activity
- If you have hearing loss and are not using hearing aids
- Feeling stressed
- If you are not well-rested, learn about how to sleep with tinnitus
- If you "check in" or "listen out" for it to see if it is still there
When to See A Professional
It might be time to see an audiologist or other medical professional for tinnitus help if your tinnitus:
- Is only in one ear (unilateral tinnitus)
- Is pulsatile (sounds like your heartbeat)
- Is accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness and/or reduction in hearing
- Interferes with your hearing or communication
- Means you ask for repetitions
- Makes it difficult to understand speech
- Interferes with your enjoyment of music
Likewise, if the tinnitus is accompanied by the following conditions, it could be helpful to seek the advise of a mental health professional:
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Intrusive thoughts about tinnitus
- Difficulty completing activities of daily living
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty relaxing
- Difficulty working or studying
- Other unhelpful coping mechanisms
Finally, if the tinnitus is accompanied by ear symptoms it could be advisable to consult an otologist or general practitioner.
Ear symptoms can include:
- Fullness or clogged sensation
- Difficulty hearing
- Other concerns about the ears or hearing