In the movies, invisibility is a formidable power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health problems, unfortunately, are just as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an incredibly common condition that impacts 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 people who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, which means 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 fairly common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some people might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not actually there.
In most situations, tinnitus will go away quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? it’s not hard to see how that might start to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a wide variety of causes.
Sometimes, it might be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other cases. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to handle this.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will typically subside.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite common. Using ear protection if extremely loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears may start ringing.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, they both 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 seem louder.
If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become easier. For example, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. Some individuals, however, may never know what causes 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 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 start treatment). We will execute a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal affect on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most common:
- 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 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 hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices generate just the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic technique designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. You might be able to prevent your symptoms from worsening if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re 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.