In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. 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.
Unfortunately, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be significant.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. 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 quiet room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these sounds have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? it’s not hard to see how that could begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and attempted to figure out the cause? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, 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 large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be evident. But you might never really know in other situations. In general, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- Certain medications: Certain 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.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Among the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely associated. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the equation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the outside world is quieter.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can occur when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. This inflammation can trigger tinnitus.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! The best way to counter this kind of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively 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 could become simpler. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can reduce your symptoms. Some individuals, however, may never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it happens often). That said, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should absolutely 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, do a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.
If your tinnitus is due to an underlying condition, like an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then addressing that underlying condition will result in a noticeable difference in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most prevalent are the following:
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. In these situations, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
- A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices generate exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-tailored to your specific tinnitus requirements. The goal will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your symptoms will likely get worse if you do. You might be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. 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, call us, we can help.