In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. As an illustration, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be substantial.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Noises like humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
In most situations, tinnitus will come and go quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound never goes away? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.
In some cases, it might be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you might never really know. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Usually, that ringing goes away once you stop taking the medication in question.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This often causes ringing in your ears.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus may be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite common. Wearing ear protection if very loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, might never identify what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). Having said that, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, perform a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be addressed and it can be controlled.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So managing symptoms so they have a limited affect on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less noticeable.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic approach created to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the goal here.
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to prevent them from getting worse. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.