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 people in movies to be more effectual and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Regrettably, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for example, is an exceptionally common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a substantial impact on those who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises like humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.
In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But tinnitus is a long-term and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million individuals. Think about it like this: hearing that ringing in your ears for five or ten minutes is irritating, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if that sound never goes away? It’s easy to imagine how that might begin to substantially affect your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be evident. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Usually, that ringing goes away when you quit using the medication in question.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your doctor is the best way to handle this.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this type of tinnitus is to steer clear of overly loud settings (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the result of this swelling.
- Hearing loss: There is a close relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the equation here. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. As a result, your ears may begin to ring.
- 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. Over time, Meniere’s disease can result in irreversible hearing loss.
Treatment will obviously be easier if you can pinpoint the source of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some individuals, however, may never recognize what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it subsides, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should definitely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it keeps coming back. We will execute a hearing test, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re using a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you deal with the base cause. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily addressed.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are many things that we can do to help. Here are some of the most prevalent:
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices produce just the right amount and type of sound to make your distinct tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- 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 hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds get quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
We will develop an individualized and unique treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Tinnitus might 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 might be able to prevent your symptoms from worsening if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should get yourself hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you’re around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.