Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. 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.
Invisible health conditions, unfortunately, are equally as potent and much less fun. As an example, tinnitus is an exceptionally common hearing condition. But there are no outward symptoms, it doesn’t matter how well you look.
But just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean tinnitus doesn’t have a significant affect 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 condition of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know when you are sitting in a very quiet room, or when you get back from a loud concert and you hear that ringing in your ears? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is quite common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and a number of others can manifest. The common denominator is that anybody who has tinnitus is hearing noises that are not really there.
For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go really quickly. 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 again. But what if that sound never goes away? It’s easy to imagine how that could begin to substantially impact your quality of life.
Have you ever had a headache and tried to figure out the cause? Perhaps it’s stress; maybe you’re getting a cold; maybe it’s allergies. A number of things can trigger a headache and that’s the issue. The same is also true of tinnitus, though the symptoms may be common, the causes are widespread.
The source of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you may never truly know. Here are some general things that can cause tinnitus:
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a condition of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are generally tinnitus and dizziness. Irreversible hearing loss can happen over time.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are often closely associated. In part, that’s because noise damage can also be a direct contributor to sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, they both have the same cause. But the ringing in your ears can seem louder with hearing loss because the external world is quieter.
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
- Colds or allergies: Inflammation can happen when a lot of mucus backs up in your ears. And tinnitus can be the result of this inflammation.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause inflammation in the ear canal. As a result, your ears could start ringing.
- High blood pressure: For some individuals, tinnitus may be caused by high blood pressure. Getting your blood pressure under control with the help of your physician is the best way to handle this.
- 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 quite prevalent. Using ear protection if very loud places can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
- Certain medications: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Normally, that ringing goes away once you stop using the medication in question.
If you’re able to identify the cause of your tinnitus, treatment might become easier. Clearing a blockage, for instance, will ease tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be identified for some people.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
Tinnitus that only lasts 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 screening.
But you should certainly schedule 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 affected, complete a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. Your symptoms can then be diagnosed using this information.
How is tinnitus treated?
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re taking a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to treat if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.
For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Among the most common 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 create just the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.
- 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 overpower the buzzing or ringing you may be hearing from your tinnitus.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We might refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This approach uses therapy to help you learn to ignore the tinnitus sounds.
We will formulate an individualized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by managing 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 pretend it isn’t there. Chances are, those symptoms will only grow worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. At the very least, you should purchase hearing protection for your ears, make sure 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) schedule an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.