In the movies, invisibility is a powerful tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, often, accomplish the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health problems 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 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 considerable.
What is tinnitus?
So we know 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 return from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some individuals could hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all sorts of things. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not really there.
For most people, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. 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 that sound doesn’t go away? It’s easy to see how that could begin to significantly affect your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. The trouble is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you may never really know. In general, however, tinnitus may be caused by the following:
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to excessively loud noise over time. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite common. Using hearing protection if exceedingly loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter 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 triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus backs up in your ears, it could cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely connected. 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 hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. With time, Meniere’s disease can cause permanent hearing loss.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. This often triggers ringing in your ears.
Treatment will obviously be easier if you can figure out the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Cleaning out a blockage, for example, will alleviate tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some people.
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it recedes, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). Having said that, it’s never a bad plan to come see us to schedule a hearing screening.
However, if your tinnitus won’t subside or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to get to the bottom of it (or at least begin treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, perform a hearing test, and most likely discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the base cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. amongst the most common are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we may 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 hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes obvious because your hearing loss is making everything else comparatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and overpower 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 produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
We will develop an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
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 stop them from getting worse. You should at least be sure 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.