Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, achieve the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a very common condition that affects the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a considerable affect on individuals who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. 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. Tinnitus is so prevalent that around 25 million individuals experience it every day.
While ringing is the most common manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some people might hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they aren’t 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 individuals. Sure, it can be a little annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially affected.
Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.
In some cases, it might be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other cases, you might never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. As a result, your ears might begin to ring.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to stay away from overly loud places (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing goes away when you stop using the medication in question.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can result in permanent hearing loss.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. 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 become louder.
Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can identify the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing a blockage, for example, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, may never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come 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 insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the base 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 mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. We can help in many ways. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
- 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 calibrated to your unique tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less conspicuous.
We will develop an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Odds are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to stop them from growing worse. You should at least be sure to have your ear protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.