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 effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health problems, unfortunately, are just as potent and a lot less fun. Tinnitus, for instance, is an exceptionally common condition that impacts the ears. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no outward symptoms.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a considerable impact on those who experience symptoms.
Tinnitus – what is it?
One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that it can’t be seen. 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 very quiet room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (somewhere around 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other manifestations of tinnitus besides the common ringing. Some people may hear buzzing, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds of things. Here’s the common denominator, anyone who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
In most cases, tinnitus will come and go over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and again. But what if that sound never goes away? It’s easy to see how that could begin to substantially impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? The trouble is that lots of issues can trigger headaches! The same goes for tinnitus, even though the symptoms might be common, the causes are widespread.
Sometimes, it may be really apparent what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are a few general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Among the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. Over time, Meniere’s disease can cause permanent hearing loss.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it might cause some inflammation. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by certain over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will usually subside.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus could be the consequence of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to handle this.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently 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 the ringing in your ears can sound louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This often triggers ringing in your ears.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. One of the top causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. Wearing hearing protection if extremely loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
Treatment will obviously be simpler if you can determine the source 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 might never be identified for some individuals.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only lasts a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, having regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.
But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming 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 insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is due to an underlying condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re taking, then dealing with that underlying condition will result in an improvement 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 goal is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. amongst the most prevalent are the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- 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.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds comparatively quieter. In these cases, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and drown out the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
We will develop a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The goal will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead 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’re around loud noises.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.