In the movies, invisibility is a potent power. 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.
Regrettably, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that affects the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be considerable.
What is tinnitus?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that around 25 million people experience it every day.
There are many other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all kinds of things. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go really quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? It’s easy to imagine how that might begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, 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 hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud places (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Over time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be caused by high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a smart plan to check with your physician in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
Treatment will clearly be simpler if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Cleaning out a blockage, for example, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, may never know what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
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 often). Having said that, it’s never a bad plan to come see us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it keeps coming back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, do a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re using a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the base cause. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily corrected.
So managing symptoms so they have a minimal affect on your life is the objective if you have chronic tinnitus. There are many things that we can do to help. Among the most common are the following:
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
We will develop 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 can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be sure to have your hearing 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.