In the movies, invisibility is a potent tool. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health problems, unfortunately, are equally as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.
But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be considerable.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, 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 situations, tinnitus will come and go quickly. But tinnitus is a lasting and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a bit annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? It’s easy to see how that might begin to significantly impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? The trouble is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, even though the symptoms might be common, the causes are extensive.
Sometimes, it might be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other situations. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely associated. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. They both 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.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally tinnitus and dizziness. Over time, Meniere’s disease can result in permanent hearing loss.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will usually go away.
- 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 could start ringing.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively 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 very loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus may be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to handle this.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can identify the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, might never know 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 idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside 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 impacted, perform a hearing exam, and most likely 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 using a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily addressed.
For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy 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. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, 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 ahead of them. At the very least, you should purchase hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.