Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an exceptionally common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be significant.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you sometimes hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some individuals may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a lasting and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is irritating, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? it’s not hard to see how that could start to substantially affect your quality of life.
Have you ever tried to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.
Sometimes, it might be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other cases. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using ear protection if exceedingly loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus may be the consequence 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.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you stop using the medication, the ringing will usually go away.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause inflammation in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears might begin to ring.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can occur when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment may become easier. For example, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. That said, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.
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 perform a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated and it can be managed.
If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited affect on your life is the objective if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Among the most common are the following:
- 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 substantially less obvious.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
We will formulate a personalized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the objective 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 likely get worse if you do. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. 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, contact us, we can help.