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 effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Unfortunately, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no outward symptoms.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on people who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we know 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 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 rather common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises like humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.
For most people, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat irritating 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 start to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The trouble is that quite a few issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.
In some cases, it may be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other cases, you may never really know. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to manifest. Over time, Meniere’s disease can result in permanent hearing loss.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus could be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely connected. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing disappears once you stop using the medication in question.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some swelling. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to steer clear of overly loud places (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears may start ringing.
Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can figure out the source of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, might never know what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, getting regular hearing assessments is always a good idea.
But you should absolutely 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 impacted, do a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is a result of a root condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily addressed.
For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices can be adjusted to your unique tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less noticeable.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might 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 needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to prevent them from getting worse. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.