Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health conditions, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no outward symptoms.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be significant.
What is tinnitus?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that 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 that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (somewhere around 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some people could hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all kinds of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
In most cases, 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 then. But what if that sound never goes away? It’s easy to see how that could begin to significantly affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms might be common, the causes are widespread.
Sometimes, it might be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other cases. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- 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 may start ringing.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Usually, that ringing disappears when you stop using the medication in question.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus may be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to handle this.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! The best way to counter this kind of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud settings (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some inflammation. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to appear. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can determine the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can relieve your symptoms. Some individuals, however, might never identify what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs often). That said, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should definitely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away 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 affected, complete a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated 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 fixed.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in many ways. amongst 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 produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic technique designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, 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 boosts the volume of the external world.
We will develop an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You might be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.