Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. 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.
Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is an exceptionally common condition that affects the ears. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant impact on people who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, which means 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. Tinnitus is so common that about 25 million people experience it daily.
There are lots of other presentations 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 sounds that aren’t actually there.
For most people, tinnitus will be a temporary affair, it will come and go very quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Here’s one way to think about it: 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 that sound doesn’t go away? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever tried to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Are you getting a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. 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. But you may never really know in other cases. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- 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 very common. The best way to counter this kind of tinnitus is to stay away from excessively loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing subsides when you quit taking the medication in question.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears might start ringing.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is fairly sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are among the first symptoms to manifest. Permanent hearing loss can happen over time.
Treatment will obviously be easier if you can pinpoint 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 individuals.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If you have ringing in your ears for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs frequently). Still, having regular hearing tests is always a good idea.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come back, you should make an appointment with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will conduct a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. But it can be treated and it can be controlled.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you address the base cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily corrected.
So controlling symptoms so they have a minimal impact on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Among the most common are the following:
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. The buzzing or ringing will be less noticeable when your hearing aid boosts the volume of the outside world.
- 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 particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
We will formulate an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you manage your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have 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. You may be able to stop your symptoms from worsening if you can get ahead of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.