In the movies, invisibility is a potent tool. The characters can often do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Unfortunately, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re 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 just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant impact on individuals who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that about 25 million individuals experience it every day.
While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. 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 go away over a short period. 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 then. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? It’s easy to imagine how that could start to significantly impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The same goes for tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you might never really know. Here are some general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some inflammation. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus could be the result of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to handle this.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing subsides once you stop using the medication in question.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using ear protection if exceptionally loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This often causes ringing in your ears.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can identify the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. Some people, however, might never recognize what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs often). Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should certainly make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it continues to come back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, perform a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus is not a condition that has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re using a specific medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the underlying cause. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily corrected.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal impact on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Among the most prevalent are the following:
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
We will develop a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.