Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they have the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health disorders, regrettably, are just as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a really 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 impact could be significant.
What is tinnitus?
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 that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that about 25 million people experience it every day.
There are many other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people could hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds 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 persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a little irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? it’s not hard to imagine how that could start to significantly affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms may be common, the causes are extensive.
Sometimes, it might be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you might never really know in other cases. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection 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 equation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so common that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! The best way to counter this type of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud places (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it may cause some swelling. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, managing it might become easier. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can reduce your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some people.
Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will execute a hearing test, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even talk about your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If your tinnitus is due to a root condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then addressing that underlying condition will result in an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of boosting them. These devices can be calibrated to your specific tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less conspicuous.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the external world.
We will formulate an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. 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?
Tinnitus may 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 may be able to prevent them from getting worse. You should at least be certain to have your ear protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.