Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. 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 considerable.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. 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 return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (somewhere around 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some individuals may hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts 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 quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is annoying, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? it’s not hard to imagine how that might begin to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? 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 issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be evident. But you may never really know in other cases. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the picture 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.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will normally go away.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to address this.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Using hearing protection if exceptionally loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears might start ringing.
If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become easier. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, may never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it recedes, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). That said, it’s never a bad plan to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will conduct a hearing screening, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is due to an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily fixed.
For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most common:
- A masking device: This is a device much 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.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. 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.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to stop them from getting worse. 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, call us, we can help.