In the movies, invisibility is a potent power. The characters can often do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health conditions, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is a very common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on people who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million people experience it daily.
While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some individuals might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, 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. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is irritating, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? it’s not hard to imagine how that could begin to significantly impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can cause a headache and that’s the problem. The same goes for tinnitus, although the symptoms might be common, the causes are widespread.
Sometimes, it might be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you might never really know. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause inflammation in the ear canal. As a result, your ears may begin to ring.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to steer clear of overly loud settings (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will typically subside.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. With time, Meniere’s disease can cause irreversible 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.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- 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. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this inflammation.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can identify the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can relieve your symptoms. Some individuals, however, might never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
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 idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will execute a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is a result of an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will result in 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 goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices can be calibrated to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less obvious.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
We will create a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. 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 most likely get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. 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) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.