Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is an extremely common hearing condition. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be considerable.
Tinnitus – what is it?
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 when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so prevalent that around 25 million people experience it every day.
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody 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 really quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a bit annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound never goes away? Clearly, your quality of life would be substantially affected.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever attempted to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a wide variety of causes.
In some cases, it may be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you might never really know. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some swelling. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to appear. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external 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 steer clear of overly loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing goes away when you stop using the medication in question.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This often triggers ringing in your ears.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor in order to help manage your blood pressure.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can figure out the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some individuals.
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 takes place frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad plan to come see us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should make an appointment with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, do a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this information.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then dealing with that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For those who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less noticeable when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the external world.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
We will formulate an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.