In the movies, invisibility is a potent tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, achieve the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is a very common hearing condition. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be considerable.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Noises like humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is irritating, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? Clearly, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever tried to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
Sometimes, it might be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you may never really know. Here are some general things that can trigger 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.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to check with your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically dizziness and tinnitus. Over time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. Consequently, your ears could start ringing.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it may cause some inflammation. This swelling can trigger tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. 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 settings (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can determine the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be identified for some individuals.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). That said, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should definitely schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will execute a hearing examination, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.
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 taking, 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.
For people with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
- 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, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less noticeable.
We will formulate an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will probably 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’re struggling with tinnitus, call us, we can help.