Invisibility is a really useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Unfortunately, invisible health conditions are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is an exceptionally common condition that affects the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant impact on individuals who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is fairly common (somewhere around 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.
In most situations, tinnitus will go away quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. 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? It’s easy to see how that could begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. In other situations, you may never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus may be caused by the following:
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it might cause some swelling. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- 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 often causes ringing in your ears.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very common. Wearing hearing protection if exceedingly loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your doctor in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing goes away once you stop using the medication in question.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them 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.
If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, treating it could become easier. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some individuals.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it goes away, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place frequently). Still, having regular hearing assessments is always a smart plan.
But you should certainly schedule an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it continues to come back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being impacted, perform a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re using a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the underlying cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
For those who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. We can help in many ways. Among the most common are the following:
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices generate just the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
We will develop a personalized 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’re dealing with tinnitus?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may 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 have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.