In the movies, invisibility is a potent tool. The characters can frequently 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.
Invisible health conditions, regrettably, are just as potent and much less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. Regardless of how well you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a substantial impact on individuals who experience symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus symptoms are auditory in nature, being a disorder of the ears. You know when you are sitting in a silent room, or when you return from a loud concert and you hear a ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million individuals experience it daily.
While ringing is the most common presentation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises like humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t actual sounds at all.
In most cases, tinnitus will go away quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a persistent, sometimes debilitating condition. 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 doesn’t go away? Obviously, your quality of life would be substantially impacted.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Maybe it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; perhaps it’s allergies. The difficulty is that quite a few issues can cause headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a large number of causes.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. But you may never really know in other situations. Here are several general things that can trigger tinnitus:
- Colds or allergies: Swelling can occur when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Swelling of the ear canal can be generated by things like seasonal allergies, a cold, or an ear infection. Consequently, your ears might start ringing.
- Meniere’s Disease: A good number of symptoms can be caused by this condition of the inner ear. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to irreversible hearing loss.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is pretty sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. This is so common that loud noises are one of the top causes of tinnitus! The best way to prevent this kind of tinnitus is to avoid excessively loud settings (or use ear protection if avoidance isn’t possible).
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some individuals. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to check with your physician in order to help manage your blood pressure.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to have ringing in your ears. Once you quit using the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
- Hearing loss: There is a close association between tinnitus and hearing loss. Partly, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, both of them have the same cause. 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 identify the cause of your tinnitus, treating it may become simpler. For instance, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing out that earwax can reduce your symptoms. Some individuals, however, may never identify what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus that only persists a few minutes isn’t something that you really need to have diagnosed. Still, having regular hearing tests is always a smart plan.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or continues to come back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least start treatment). We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, do a hearing test, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed utilizing this insight.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If your tinnitus is caused by a root condition, such as an ear infection or a medication you’re using, then addressing that underlying condition will lead to an improvement in your symptoms. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Among the most prevalent are the following:
- A masking device: This is a device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of boosting sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be calibrated to your distinctive tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing significantly less obvious.
- A hearing aid: In some cases, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less apparent when your hearing aid raises the volume of the outside world.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to another provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This is a therapeutic approach designed to help you not pay attention to the ringing in your ears.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?
Tinnitus may 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 may be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get in front of them. At the very least, you should purchase hearing protection for your ears, be certain you’re using ear plugs or ear muffs whenever you are around loud noises.
If you have tinnitus that won’t go away (or keeps coming back) make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.