Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked starship, or a sneaky ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effective and, frequently, achieve the impossible.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are just as potent and much less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a really 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 significant impact on those who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
One thing we recognize for certain about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is pretty common (something like 25 million individuals experience tinnitus every year).
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Noises including humming, whirring, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anyone who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that are not really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-lived affair, it will come and go really quickly. But tinnitus is a long-term and incapacitating condition for between 2-5 million people. 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 start to significantly affect your quality of life.
Have you ever tried to determine the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a wide variety of causes.
Sometimes, it might be really obvious 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: Quite a few symptoms can be caused by this disorder of the inner ear. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are usually dizziness and tinnitus. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this swelling.
- 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.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to develop. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is very prevalent. The best way to counter this type of tinnitus is to steer clear of excessively loud places (or wear ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are incredibly sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be caused by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Normally, that ringing subsides once you stop using the medication in question.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be caused by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears may begin to ring.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a strong contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. They both have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment could become easier. Clearing out a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. Some people, however, might never identify what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Having said that, it’s never a bad strategy to come see us to schedule a hearing exam.
But you should certainly make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will conduct a hearing examination, discuss your symptoms and how they’re impacting your life, and perhaps even discuss your medical history. All of that insight will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. 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 using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to a noticeable difference in your symptoms. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no underlying condition that can be easily addressed.
For people with chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. We can help in a variety of ways. amongst the most prevalent are the following:
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be calibrated to your unique tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more apparent. 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 may be hearing from your tinnitus.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: When it comes to cognitive behavioral therapy, we may end up referring you to a different provider. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
We will create an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. 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?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Your symptoms will probably get worse if you do. You may be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead 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) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.