In the movies, invisibility is a formidable tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effectual and, often, achieve the impossible.
Unfortunately, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a very common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how well you might look, there are no outward symptoms.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be substantial.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are many other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some individuals might hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they’re not real sounds at all.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat 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 not hard to imagine how that could start to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. The trouble is that quite a few issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you may never really know. Here are some general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will normally go away.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so common that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Using ear protection if extremely loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Among the first symptoms, however, are typically dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some inflammation. And tinnitus can be the consequence of this swelling.
- 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 big part of the picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to consult your primary care provider in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, managing it may become easier. For example, if an earwax obstruction is causing 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 your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should definitely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will perform a hearing test, 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 utilizing this insight.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.
If you’re using a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you address the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. We can help in many ways. Here are some of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This technique uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid increases the volume of the outside world.
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from getting worse. You should at least be sure 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.