Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effectual and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are equally as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be considerable.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most common manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they’re not real sounds at all.
For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. Lots 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 might, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you may never really know. Here are some general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some inflammation. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this inflammation.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus may be caused by high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Typically, that ringing subsides once you stop using the medication in question.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so common that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to stay away from overly loud places (or use hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Hearing loss: There is a close association 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 picture here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears could start ringing.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are among the first symptoms to manifest. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment might become easier. clearing away a blockage, for example, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, might never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, getting regular hearing tests is always a good idea.
But you should certainly schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it continues to come back. We will perform a hearing screening, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus is not a condition that has a cure. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the underlying cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic strategy designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your specific tinnitus symptoms, generating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
We will formulate an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing your symptoms is the objective here.
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. You might be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.