In the movies, invisibility is a powerful tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and a lot less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant impact on people who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. 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 silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it daily.
While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals may hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a bit annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound never goes away? it’s not hard to imagine how that could start to substantially affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The difficulty is that quite a few issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.
In some cases, it might be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other cases, you might never really know. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This often causes ringing in your ears.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this swelling.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Over time, Meniere’s disease can cause permanent hearing loss.
- 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.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using ear protection if extremely loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus could be the result of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to consult your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association 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, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, treatment may become easier. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). Still, getting regular hearing exams is always a good idea.
But you should absolutely schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it continues to come back. We will execute a hearing screening, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated and it can be managed.
If your tinnitus is due to a root condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the objective if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Among the most common are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- 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 distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus might 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. 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 certain to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, call us, we can help.