Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they have the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health problems, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no outward symptoms.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be significant.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of 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. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it every day.
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go really quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a little annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.
Have you ever tried to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? A number of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.
In some cases, it might be really clear 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: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using hearing protection if exceptionally loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the picture here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this swelling.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears could begin to ring.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to consult your physician in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will typically subside.
Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can figure out the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. Some individuals, however, might never identify what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs frequently). That said, it’s never a bad plan to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). 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. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t 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 taking, then addressing that underlying condition will result in an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For people with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices can be calibrated to your specific tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less obvious.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic technique created to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
We will create an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be certain to have your ear protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.