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 spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health problems, regrettably, are equally as potent and much less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be substantial.
What is tinnitus?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a silent 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 people experience it daily.
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be somewhat annoying to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? It’s easy to imagine how that might start to substantially impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. But you might never really know in other cases. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Meniere’s Disease: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription medications. Normally, that ringing subsides once you quit using the medication in question.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the situation here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to check with your primary care provider in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some inflammation. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. The best way to counter this type of tinnitus is to avoid overly loud settings (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, managing it may become easier. clearing away 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 identified for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only lasts 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 exam.
But you should definitely schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it keeps coming back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, do a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be controlled.
If you’re using a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the goal 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 prevalent:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic strategy designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
- 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 particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to stop them from getting worse. At the very least, you should purchase hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.