In the movies, invisibility is a formidable power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health problems, regrettably, are equally as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on people who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you sometimes hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it every day.
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some people could hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all kinds of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition. Think about it like this: 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 never goes away? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially affected.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. But you might never really know in other situations. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the leading 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 overly loud locations (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the equation here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing goes away when you quit using the medication in question.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. This often causes ringing in your ears.
Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can pinpoint the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
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 come see us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, do a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re taking a specific medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most common:
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices can be calibrated to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less conspicuous.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
We will create a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Odds are, those symptoms will only grow worse. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.