In the movies, invisibility is a formidable power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, frequently, accomplish the impossible.
Unfortunately, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.
But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be significant.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that about 25 million individuals experience it daily.
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Think about it like this: 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 never goes away? it’s not hard to imagine how that might begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? The difficulty is that lots of issues can cause headaches! The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. But you might never really know in other cases. In general, however, tinnitus may be caused by the following:
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to address this.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the picture here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- 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 usually dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can result in permanent hearing loss.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. This is so common that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Using ear protection if exceptionally loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription medications. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, managing it could become easier. Cleaning out a blockage, for instance, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some individuals.
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). Still, having regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least start treatment). We will conduct a hearing examination, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and perhaps even talk about your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.
If you’re taking a specific medication or have a root 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 people who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your unique 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 requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the objective here.
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your symptoms will most likely 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 purchase hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.