In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they possess the power of invisibility, whether it’s a spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Unfortunately, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be considerable.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it every day.
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Some people might hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will go away quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is annoying, but you can distract yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? it’s not hard to see how that might begin to substantially impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Perhaps 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 same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms might be common, the causes are extensive.
Sometimes, it may be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other cases, you may never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- 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 prevalent. The best way to counter this type of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively loud locations (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it might cause some inflammation. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are amongst the first symptoms to appear. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears could begin to ring.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus may be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to consult your doctor in order to help control your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Normally, that ringing disappears once you quit using the medication in question.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treating it may become simpler. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is causing ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can relieve your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms might never be known for some individuals.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it subsides, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs frequently). That said, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or keeps coming back, you should make an appointment with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will perform a hearing screening, talk to you about your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus is not a condition that has a cure. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re using a particular medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you address the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited affect on your life is the goal if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:
- A hearing aid: In some cases, 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 drown out 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 boosting them. These devices create exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
We will create an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate 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 act like it isn’t there. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you may be able to prevent 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 have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.