Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are equally as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no outward symptoms.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be substantial.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. 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 prevalent that around 25 million individuals experience it daily.
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go very quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound never goes away? it’s not hard to see how that might start to substantially impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. But you may never really know in other cases. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the situation here. Both of them 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 become louder.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus could be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to address this.
- 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 avoid overly loud settings (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
Treatment will obviously be easier if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. clearing away a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
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 occurs frequently). That said, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will perform a hearing screening, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this information.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be addressed and it can be controlled.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Among the most common are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less obvious when your hearing aid boosts 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 adjusted to your specific tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less conspicuous.
The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the objective here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to stop them from getting worse. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.