Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a substantial impact on individuals who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises like humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not actually there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is irritating, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? It’s easy to imagine how that might begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you might never truly know. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- 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 equation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it might cause some swelling. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to appear. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears might start ringing.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can figure out the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for example, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.
Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a good idea.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will execute a hearing test, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is caused by a root condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Among the most prevalent are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.