In the movies, invisibility is a formidable tool. 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 problems, regrettably, are equally as potent and a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that affects the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be significant.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not real sounds at all.
In most situations, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. 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 again. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? It’s easy to imagine how that could start to significantly affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to narrow down the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The difficulty is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The same is also true of tinnitus, even though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.
In some cases, it may be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other cases. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite common. Wearing hearing protection if very loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- 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 sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. Over time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing goes away once you quit using the medication in question.
- 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 address this.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely associated. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can reduce your symptoms. Some people, however, may never recognize what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens frequently). Still, having regular hearing tests is always a good idea.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, complete a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus is not a condition that can be cured. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.
If you’re taking a specific medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily corrected.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal affect on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are a few of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic technique designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
- 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 increases the volume of the outside world.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices generate just the right amount and type of sound to make your specific tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
The treatment plan that we devise will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus needs. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to stop them from getting worse. You should at least be certain 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.