Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Invisible health problems, regrettably, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an incredibly common condition that affects the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect on those who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t really there.
In most situations, tinnitus will come and go quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound never goes away? Clearly, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. The difficulty is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms might be common, the causes are widespread.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you may never truly know. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus may be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are extremely sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be the result of high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to consult your physician in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are generally dizziness and tinnitus. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can occur when a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a large part of the picture here. In other words, both of them 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.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively loud places (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become simpler. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, might never know what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus that only persists 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 evaluation.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, do a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re using a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For those with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most prevalent:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable 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 drown out the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to prevent them from growing worse. 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.