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The 7 Most Dangerous Myths About Tinnitus

by Roel van Gorkum
| January 9, 2023

Tinnitus forums are full of misinformation and rumors–find out what is true and what is just plain false.

Every condition that impacts a high number of people is guaranteed to have its fair share of wives’ tales and rumors, and tinnitus is no exception. Since tinnitus impacts an estimated 700+ million people around the world, its notoriety is certainly visible. While this is good for building more interest when it comes to treatment options, it also means that the rumor mill has been activated. Unfortunately, this has led to the creation of a fairly large amount of myths and disinformation being spread about the condition. We are here to debunk these rumors.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is commonly known as a chronic ringing in the ears. For some, the sound might be different–like a humming, clicking, or hissing. When you have tinnitus, it means that your brain is receiving audio feedback even though there isn’t an actual physical stimulus, leading to you perceiving a noise that is not actually physically present. The severity of the condition can vary. 

Common Myths Associated with Tinnitus

There are a lot of rumors about tinnitus. Some of them are fairly mild, and some of them are really very upsetting if you are one of the many people whose lives have been impacted by this condition. Though these rumors might not have a distinct source, you can find them repeated in online spaces–even from people who actively live with the condition. Let’s take a look at the most common rumors surrounding tinnitus.

1.   Tinnitus is Dangerous

With every condition, there will always be people who do not fully understand it. Some people truly believe that tinnitus is a dangerous condition that can ruin their lives or health. The reality is that, while tinnitus can be uncomfortable and cause distress, the condition itself is not dangerous. Living with tinnitus can come with its fair share of complications, but tinnitus has never been and will never be dangerous. Is tinnitus a disability? Yes. Does tinnitus mean your brain is dying? No.

Some believe tinnitus is the harbinger of other conditions. Many think that tinnitus is a condition that means that something is wrong with you or your health. While it is true that certain conditions, like high blood pressure, can be associated with tinnitus, this is not the standard. Most people who are living with tinnitus just have tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is its own condition, and it is not always paired with another condition. If you have additional health concerns and are also experiencing tinnitus, it can give you peace of mind to discuss it with your doctor. Even if you don’t have any other health concerns, talking with a doctor about tinnitus is your first step to receiving treatment.

The Belief Tinnitus is Dangerous Might Sound Like This:

  • “My brother developed tinnitus and then had a heart attack.”
  • “I heard tinnitus means that there is something really wrong with you.”
  • “Healthy people don’t have tinnitus.”
  • “Tinnitus is a sign of brain damage.”

2.   Tinnitus is Permanent

One of the most troublesome and commonly believed rumors regarding tinnitus is the idea that tinnitus is always going to be with us. When a lot of us find out that we have it, we commonly wonder: is tinnitus permanent? While tinnitus is generally considered to be a chronic condition, it doesn’t mean that you will always have tinnitus. In fact, some people temporarily experience tinnitus for a variety of reasons.

Reasons for Temporary Tinnitus Include:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Medication changes
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Injury

The idea that tinnitus is permanent stems from the experiences of only a portion of individuals who have tinnitus. As is the case with many conditions, this can come from points in time before tinnitus was even considered a real condition–or before we looked into creating treatment options for tinnitus. Some people live their lives with tinnitus, this is true. However, not all people do. For many people, their time with tinnitus is a chapter in their lives, not the whole book.

3.   Tinnitus Treatments Don’t Work

Another highly damaging myth surrounding tinnitus is the longstanding belief that tinnitus treatments don’t work. This is a rumor that doesn’t just come from those outside of the tinnitus community. In fact, people who actively have tinnitus also believe that this is the case–and this is absolutely incorrect. Every year, an estimated 16 million people consult doctors and seek treatment for tinnitus.

The prominence of tinnitus has made it a unique point of interest for many different health organizations. Already, professionals have worked to find ways to treat tinnitus and the mental and emotional discomfort that can come with it. The current treatments that are available are only the start. More people are working to treat tinnitus and create programs that work. The best part? Many people have successfully reduced their symptoms—and so can you!

Successful Treatment Options Include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
  • A Combination of Treatments (Still Tinnitus is one example of this)

While it is true that not everyone experiences success with every treatment type, many people do experience success with these common treatment options and new innovative approaches.

4.   Tinnitus Leads to Permanent Physical Damage

The fact that tinnitus causes people to hear noises that are not actually physically there leads many to believe that the damage is internal and worsens with time. It is true that tinnitus can get worse, but there is no evidence that tinnitus itself causes any kind of permanent physical damage. Tinnitus will not physically harm you in any way, even if your condition worsens with time. However, tinnitus can form as a direct result of physical damage.

Damage Causing Tinnitus Can Include:

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Exposure to loud music
  • Physical damage to the inner ear
  • Pressure damage to the ear

5.   Tinnitus Means Your Hearing is Going Out

For many people, the ringing of tinnitus can sound strangely like warning bells. The truth? Most times, that is not the case. The overlap between people who experience some level of hearing loss and tinnitus is fairly substantial. Up to 90% of people who experience tinnitus also have hearing loss independently of the condition. Adding to this, 76% of people with hearing loss also have tinnitus. 

Tinnitus does not cause any hearing loss itself. Tinnitus is a very real condition with very real impacts, but it does not cause any kind of physical damage or lead to hearing loss. Any hearing loss associated with tinnitus is either happening independently or exists because the hearing loss has caused tinnitus. 

6.   Tinnitus Causes Extreme Psychological Damage

All chronic conditions come with psychological impacts, even for the most well-adjusted people that you know. People with chronic tinnitus can experience many of the psychological impacts associated with chronic illnesses. For example, tinnitus and anxiety and tinnitus and depression can often go hand-in-hand. However, the idea that tinnitus will inflict devastating psychological damage is an exaggeration and misrepresentation. 

One element of the psychological superstitions regarding tinnitus is the fact that it isn’t “real” in the traditional sense. Unfortunately, society has continuously misrepresented and dismissed the realities of living with any kind of mental health struggle. Some hold the outdated and insulting belief that people who experience tinnitus are “crazy” or simply acting out for attention. This is not the case in the slightest. It is a very real condition, and it impacts a lot of people. 

7.   People With Tinnitus Caused it Themselves

Any time that a condition is made known to the public, there will always be people looking to place the blame on the individual. Some people have to point a finger to explain why certain things happen, and this has happened countless times throughout history all around the globe. While there are risk factors associated with tinnitus, even a person who does everything right can still develop tinnitus. 

Experts estimate that the risk for tinnitus increases by about 3% with each year of age and disproportionately affects men. Tinnitus also largely impacts people in specific careers, which can be seen with musicians who are 57% more likely to develop tinnitus than the average person. Additionally, in 2015 alone, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs processed 160,000 tinnitus disability claims.

Risks Associated with Tinnitus May Include:

  • Careers that lead to exposure to loud noises (musicians, military, machinists, welders, etc.)
  • Inner ear damage (loud noises, pressure changes, using cotton swabs inside the ear, etc.)
  • Existing hearing loss
  • Certain medical condition
  • Certain medications

Is it possible that your actions might have influenced your ears or caused damage? Of course. However, it is simply not true that every person who has tinnitus has caused it somehow. Some people spend their lives exposed to loud noises and never develop tinnitus, and some people who treat their ears perfectly do. There is nothing productive about pointing a finger at anyone.

Why Are Tinnitus Myths So Dangerous?

Some myths are just fun stories that grow as public opinion changes. Myths regarding medical conditions, however, can lead to some fairly dangerous outcomes. Let’s look at what happens when people get it wrong when talking about tinnitus or any other medical condition.

They Spread Misinformation

Misinformation is the enemy of progress, and it can lead to many different negative outcomes. When people do not have the right information, they simply cannot make the right decisions or fully understand their condition or the conditions of those that they care about. Having the facts in order is very important.

Medical Misinformation Causes:

  • Unnecessary fear responses
  • Self-blame and victim blaming
  • A higher chance that those with certain conditions will be misled or tricked
  • Loss of funding for scientific research

They Cause People to Lose Hope

When you live with a chronic condition, hope is very important for preserving your mental health. Hope is what keeps us positive on the days when the condition feels worse or when we look to the future of our lives with a condition. 

Studies show that optimism can have a notable impact on the overall health and wellness of those with chronic conditions. It is the spirit that encourages people to keep looking for solutions and treatment options. Saying that tinnitus is permanent or that there is no hope of treatment is highly damaging and sets us back.

It Dissuades People from Getting Treatment

It is easy to look at a loss of hope and think that it is just an emotional thing, but is important to remember that these emotions can also lead to actions. For some, being told that tinnitus is permanent and that treatment options don’t actually work can lead them to decide against receiving treatment at all. Unfortunately, this leads to unnecessary suffering and can stop people from seeking out treatment options that would otherwise help them.

When you tell someone that treatments don’t work, they generally hear that they shouldn’t even bother trying—even when treatment actually could help them.

The Truth About Tinnitus

With all of these myths, we want to share some truths about tinnitus that directly combat them. So, what is the truth when it comes to tinnitus and seeking treatment?

It Can Be Treated

Tinnitus can absolutely be treated, and many people use treatment options to manage their tinnitus. For some, treatment can be as simple as lowering stress levels or quitting a certain medication. For others, different tinnitus treatment options can help to alleviate and stop tinnitus symptoms altogether. What matters above all else is trying different approaches to find what works for you.

The Right Approach Can Help

Life with tinnitus can be frustrating. If you have it, chances are that you will want to seek treatment. Right now, there are many different kinds of treatment options available for tinnitus, and new ones are constantly being introduced. The best thing that you can do is find a treatment option that works for you–and try not to get discouraged. Your body is unique, and your path to treatment is too. 

How I Treated My Tinnitus–and How You Can Too

The myths surrounding tinnitus continue to spread the same misinformation that has been holding back tinnitus sufferers for years now–and the only way to combat it is knowledge. The truth is that even the most prominent treatment methods don’t always work for everyone. Unfortunately, I was one of the people who nothing seemed to work for, but instead of buying into the misinformation, I decided to battle my tinnitus with education instead. 

After years of suffering, I decided to commit to extensive research. I learned about tinnitus and how it truly impacts the mind and body. I learned about the different techniques and how they were designed to help. Then, I used this information to create my own method, which brings together three clinically-proven techniques to finally silence tinnitus. If you are sick of losing hope with existing methods like I was, Still Tinnitus is for you. Together, we can share the right information and get the support that we need too. 

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Roel van Gorkum Founder of Still Tinnitus

About me

I was suffering badly from the ringing in my ears. I battled and battled – only to make it worse. Then, I started learning and developed a solution. Now, I help others find tinnitus relief.

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