In the movies, invisibility is a powerful tool. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows characters in movies to be more effective and, often, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, regrettably, are equally as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a very common condition that affects the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a considerable affect on those who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we know for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a condition of the ears. You know that ringing in your ears you sometimes hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus yearly).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Some individuals might hear buzzing, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they’re not actual sounds at all.
In most situations, tinnitus will go away over a short period. But for somewhere between 2-5 million individuals, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes incapacitating condition. Sure, it can be somewhat irritating to hear that ringing for a few minutes now and then. But what if that sound doesn’t go away? it’s not hard to imagine how that could begin to substantially impact your quality of life.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever attempted to pinpoint the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it allergies? A number of things can cause a headache and that’s the challenge. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a large number of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be evident. In other cases, you may never truly know. In general, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! Ringing in your ears can be triggered by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the equation here. They both 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.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be triggered by some over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will normally subside.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Inflammation of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. This sometimes causes ringing in your ears.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus might be the result of high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your primary care provider is the best way to address this.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when lots of mucus backs up in your ears. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, after a while, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the leading causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to stay away from overly loud places (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can determine the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. Some individuals, however, may never recognize what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
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 frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to check in with us to schedule a hearing evaluation.
But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will perform a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and maybe even discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this insight.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that can be cured. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the base cause. However, if you have chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
For those who have chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively affect your quality of life. We can help in many ways. Here are a few of the most common:
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making outside sounds relatively quieter. In these situations, 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.
- A masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices can be adjusted to your specific tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less conspicuous.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic strategy designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
We will formulate a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. The objective will be to help you control your symptoms so that you can get back to enjoying your life!
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
Even though tinnitus is invisible, it shouldn’t be ignored. Chances are, those symptoms will only get worse. You may be able to prevent your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.