Tinnitus is the word used to describe any sound a person can hear that isn’t present in their external environment. The sound can be buzzing, hissing, ringing, throbbing, humming, or any other sort of noise.
It can be upsetting if you notice that you are experiencing tinnitus. If you notice symptoms of tinnitus, your first question will probably be ‘how long will this tinnitus last’?
The answer isn’t always easy. If it was onset by noise, and if it lasts more than a day or two, it could be permanent. However, it is important to rule out other factors that could suggest temporary, fixable tinnitus.
The idea of having tinnitus for life can be upsetting. But tinnitus doesn’t necessarily last, and even in cases when it does, there are many effective ways to manage it.
What causes tinnitus?
The most common type of tinnitus is known as subjective tinnitus. It is caused by exposure to noise. Because subjective tinnitus is caused by noise, it a common issue for people in the music industry, as well as for people who work in construction, manufacturing, or other noisy environments.
Tinnitus from noise exposure can appear or disappear suddenly. In some cases, it may last 3-12 months. However, in many cases, it will last indefinitely. This is because tinnitus is a sign of significant damage to the auditory system.
Around one in ten people have some form of tinnitus. People have different experiences of the illness, but most people with tinnitus are able to live normally, without their daily lives being affected by the condition.
Other causes of tinnitus
Besides exposure to noise, tinnitus can be caused or worsened by a number of factors. So if you are experiencing tinnitus, it is worth looking into the following. If your tinnitus is primarily caused by one of the below, it may only be temporary.
Our ears produce wax to protect them. However, wax can build up too much and cause blockages or irritation in the ear. In some cases, wax pressing against the eardrum can cause tinnitus.
Stress can cause tinnitus, and for some people who already have mild tinnitus, it can make the condition temporarily worse. Focusing on the tinnitus can lead to further stress, exacerbating the problem.
Muscle strains in the head or neck, and muscle issues or misalignments in the jaw can cause tinnitus. This is because muscles around the ear and head can upset the delicate balance of your auditory system.
Certain medications cause tinnitus as a side-effect. A number of people have reported tinnitus symptoms after receiving Covid vaccinations, however, the number is statistically low. Technically, tinnitus is classified as a ‘rare’ side-effect of Covid vaccines. More people have reported tinnitus as a result of contracting Covid.
Research from the University of Manchester found that 6.6% of people who contracted Covid developed tinnitus symptoms.
In some cases, tinnitus is temporary. For example, if you have a physiological issue or a blockage in your ear, your tinnitus may be temporary.
It is also possible to have temporary tinnitus from exposure to noise. However, if the ringing lasts for more than a day, that could be a sign of permanent tinnitus.
If you are exposed to noise and experience ringing for a few hours, but it goes away, then let that be a warning to you. Any time you experience ringing in your ears, that is a sign that damage has happened. In loud environments, you should always wear ear protection.
Ideally, you should never experience ringing in your ears, because you should never expose your ears to damaging sounds. Obviously, this isn’t always feasible. Sometimes you find yourself unprepared for loud noises – a car accident is an obvious example that no one can prepare for.
How to stop tinnitus getting worse
To stop tinnitus getting worse, you must protect yourself from loud noises by wearing ear protection. You should carry earplugs with you at all times.
There are many options available for good quality, good value earplugs that are easily carried on a keyring. These are perfect if you are a musician, or if you work in an environment that is often noisy.
If you always have a pair of earplugs on your person (for instance, attached to your house keys), then whenever you are in a loud environment, you can easily protect yourself.
The other alternative is to simply avoid noisy environments. Since this isn’t always possible, the best option is to simply make sure you always carry earplugs.
How long does tinnitus last after a concert or loud noise?
People often experience temporary tinnitus after music concerts, or after encountering loud noises. If you do not sleep it off after a night, that could be a sign that it’s here to stay. Tinnitus can last for 3-12 months, but in many cases, it will last indefinitely.
Some common causes of temporary tinnitus include concerts, car accidents, gunfire, and other loud noises. Temporary tinnitus can also be caused by ear infections, ear wax removal procedures, sinus infections, alcohol withdrawal, and Covid. In such cases, there is a higher chance that the effects will be temporary.
Other types of tinnitus
Subjective tinnitus, caused by noise exposure, is the most common form of tinnitus. However, tinnitus can also be caused by other issues.
Other types of tinnitus include neurological tinnitus, which affects the brain’s auditory function rather than the ears. Somatic tinnitus is a form of tinnitus that is related to the broader sensory system.
In rare cases, some people have ‘objective tinnitus,’ which is caused by muscle spasms, and can actually be heard by other people.
How long does tinnitus last?
If your tinnitus has lasted for longer than a day or two, that could be a sign of permanent damage. If this is the case, it’s important to not panic.
Many people live with tinnitus. When you first notice tinnitus, you may feel upset and despondent. However, the vast majority of people with tinnitus adapt over time. You can get used to the condition, and ultimately make peace with it.
How to manage tinnitus
There is lots of advice out there and there are many things you can do to feel better about your tinnitus.
The first trick, and perhaps the most important one, is to avoid environments that are completely silent. This might seem counterintuitive, but the reality is that total silence will probably only make you more aware of the tinnitus.
The noise generated by electric fans, white noise machines, or even a humming fridge will become your friends! Put the radio on quietly in the background, or listen to ambient music or white noise playlists.
The sounds of nature can be even better. The sound of crickets in the countryside, or the sound of waves by the sea can be brilliant antidotes to cover up the sound of tinnitus and help you relax.
There are some links at the bottom of this article that will direct you to more advice on how to deal with tinnitus.
Signs that tinnitus is going away
Tinnitus can become quieter, or even just feel quieter over time. Some people with tinnitus report the following signs that tinnitus is going away:
- You notice it less often
- You feel less agitated or upset by it
- The tinnitus seems to sound softer
- You are sometimes able to fall asleep without noticing it
- You find that a whole day or longer goes by without noticing it
You can find more information about tinnitus from the following websites.
- NHS – Tinnitus – the NHS’s basic advice on tinnitus
- WebMD – Understanding Tinnitus – a basic guide to tinnitus
- British Tinnitus Association – a charity that exists to support people with tinnitus