In the movies, invisibility is a potent tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, regrettably, are just as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no outward symptoms.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be significant.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. 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 rather common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Noises like humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a little annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Clearly, your quality of life would be significantly affected.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The same goes for tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you might never truly know. Here are some general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so common that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively loud locations (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some swelling. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a large part of the situation here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to check with your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Typically, that ringing goes away when you stop using the medication in question.
Treatment will obviously be easier if you can pinpoint the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for example, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, may never recognize what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. That said, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing exam.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will perform a hearing examination, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be addressed and it can be controlled.
If your tinnitus is a result of a root condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst 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 is a therapeutic technique designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices create just the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
We will formulate a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the goal here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You might be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, be certain 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.