In the movies, invisibility is a potent power. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, frequently, accomplish the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is an extremely common hearing condition. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant impact on those who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you sometimes hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that about 25 million people experience it daily.
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t actual sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will go away quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be somewhat irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? It’s easy to see how that could begin to significantly affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can cause a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. But you might never really know in other cases. Here are several general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Using hearing protection if exceptionally loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Typically, that ringing goes away once you quit using the medication in question.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. As a result, your ears might start ringing.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to manifest. Over time, Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to handle this.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can figure out the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Cleaning out a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). That said, it’s never a bad plan to check in with us to schedule a hearing exam.
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 ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, complete a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this information.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. There are many things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be calibrated to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
- 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 obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get in front of them. 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’re around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.