In the movies, invisibility is a powerful tool. The characters can often do the impossible if they have 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 enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is a very common hearing condition. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for individuals who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact could be considerable.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. In fact, tinnitus is a condition of the ears, meaning that 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. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Noises like humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
In most cases, tinnitus will go away over a short period. But tinnitus is a lasting and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Sure, it can be a bit irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.
Have you ever tried to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
Sometimes, it may be really obvious what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. In other situations, you may never really know. Here are a few general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to steer clear of excessively loud locations (or wear hearing protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up triggering tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- 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.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tinnitus and dizziness are among the first symptoms to manifest. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can trigger tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely associated. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. Both of them have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
If you’re able to figure out the cause of your tinnitus, treating it might become simpler. For instance, if an earwax obstruction is triggering ringing in your ears, cleaning out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it goes away, it isn’t really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place often). That said, it’s never a bad plan to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
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 start treatment). We will conduct a hearing test, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this information.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. But it can be addressed and it can be managed.
If you’re using a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the underlying 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 affect on your life is the goal if you have persistent tinnitus. We can help in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most common:
- 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 apparent when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy created to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices can be adjusted to your unique tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
The treatment plan that we formulate will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the objective here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Odds are, those symptoms will only grow worse. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should invest in hearing protection for your ears, make sure you’re wearing ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are 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.