In the movies, invisibility is a formidable power. The characters can often do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a starship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health disorders, regrettably, are equally as potent and much less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is an exceptionally common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be substantial.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for sure about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. 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 common that around 25 million people experience it every day.
There are many other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises like humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not actually there.
In most situations, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be a bit annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? it’s not hard to imagine how that could start to significantly impact your quality of life.
Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a wide variety of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. In other situations, you might never really know. Here are some general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- 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 could begin to ring.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often 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 exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite common. Using hearing protection if very loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are typically dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can cause irreversible hearing loss.
If you’re able to identify 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 alleviate your symptoms. Some people, however, might never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). That said, it’s never a bad idea to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should absolutely schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will execute a hearing exam, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this information.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you address the base 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 limited impact on your life is the objective if you have persistent tinnitus. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less conspicuous.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds 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 might be hearing from your tinnitus.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the objective here.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. You might be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead 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 are around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, call us, we can help.