The ringing just won’t go away. That high pitched buzz in your ear has been nagging you since yesterday morning and it still hasn’t gone away. You know the sound is tinnitus, but you’re starting to wonder just how permanent tinnitus usually is.
Tinnitus can be caused by damage to the stereocilia in your ears (they’re the tiny hairs that sense air vibrations that your brain then turns into intelligible sound). That damage is most often the result of overly loud noise. That’s why you notice tinnitus most often after, for example, going to a concert, spending time in a noisy restaurant, or being seated near a roaring jet engine while you’re traveling.
How long does tinnitus last on average?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But that doesn’t mean it’ll never go away. How long your tinnitus lasts will depend on a wide variety of factors, including the underlying cause of your tinnitus and your overall hearing health.
But if you just returned home from a noisy day of traveling and you notice your ears ringing, you can generally expect your tinnitus to disappear in a day or two. On average, tinnitus will last 16 to 48 hours. But it’s also not uncommon for symptoms to linger–often for as long as two weeks. Additional exposure to loud noises could also cause tinnitus to flare up again, effectively resetting the clock.
It’s generally recommended that you should take the time to go see a hearing specialist if your tinnitus persists and especially if your tinnitus is detracting from your quality of life.
What causes permanent tinnitus?
Tinnitus is usually temporary. But that means it can be permanent, especially when the cause of tinnitus is something outside the mundane–either in terms of origin or in terms of severity. Here are some examples:
- Repeated exposure: If your ears are ringing after one rock concert, imagine how they’ll feel after five rock concerts a week or if you’re a musician who performs concerts and practices all day. Repeated exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage–tinnitus included.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Much of the processing of sound happens in the brain. In some cases, a traumatic brain injury (such as a concussion) may cause tinnitus because those processors start to misfire.
- Hearing loss: Often, hearing loss and tinnitus are joined at the hip. So, no matter what causes your hearing loss, you may also end up developing (or noticing) permanent tinnitus along with it.
Permanent tinnitus is significantly less common than its more temporary counterpart. But there are still millions of Americans every year who are treated for permanent–or effectively permanent–tinnitus symptoms.
How do you get your tinnitus to go away?
Whether your tinnitus is short term or long term, you may want to find relief as quickly as possible. A hearing specialist will be able to provide individualized tinnitus treatment options. Even though there’s no cure for tinnitus, there are some things you can do to minimize symptoms (however long they might last):
- Avoid loud noises. Going to another concert, hopping on another flight, or turning the volume on your television up another notch may prolong your symptoms or double down on their severity.
- Try to stay calm: Maybe it sounds a little… abstract. But staying calm can really help keep your tinnitus in check, mostly because increases in blood pressure can induce tinnitus flare-ups.
- Wear earplugs (or earmuffs): If you cannot avoid loud environments, then protecting your hearing is the next best step. (And, really, you should be protecting your hearing whether you have tinnitus or not.)
- Find a way to mask the sound: Sometimes using a white noise machine (such as a fan or humidifier) can help you drown out the noise of tinnitus and, thus, ignore the symptoms (and, you know, get a good night’s sleep in the process).
To be sure, if you have permanent tinnitus, none of these strategies will cure your tinnitus. But diminishing and controlling your symptoms can be equally important.
How long before your tinnitus goes away?
In most cases, though, your tinnitus will go away without you having to do anything about it. Just wait the 16-48 hours and your hearing should return to normal. However, if your tinnitus persists, you’ll want to seek help. The sooner you find a treatment that works, the sooner you can experience relief.