Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effectual and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an incredibly common condition that affects the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on those who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. 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 very quiet room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds 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 go away over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition. Sure, it can be a little annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound never goes away? it’s not hard to see how that could start to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever attempted to determine the cause of a headache? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
Sometimes, it may be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other cases, you might never really know. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are among the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to check with your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Normally, that ringing goes away once you quit taking the medication in question.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this swelling.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears might start ringing.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- 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 very prevalent. The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud settings (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can determine the source of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for instance, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be identified for some people.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). 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 keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, perform a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re using a specific 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 people with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Among the most prevalent are the following:
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less conspicuous.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach created to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be certain 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.