In the movies, invisibility is a formidable tool. The characters can frequently do the impossible if they have the power of invisibility, whether it’s a spaceship with cloaking ability or a wizard with an invisibility cloak.
Invisible health disorders, unfortunately, are equally as potent and much less enjoyable. As an example, tinnitus is a very common hearing condition. Regardless of how good you may look, there are no external symptoms.
But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect may be substantial.
What is tinnitus?
So we know one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. 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 silent room, or when you get back 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.
There are lots of other presentations of tinnitus besides the typical ringing. Some people could hear humming, crunching, metallic noises, all sorts of things. The one thing that all of these noises have in common is that they aren’t real sounds at all.
In most situations, tinnitus will go away quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent 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 again. But what if that sound never goes away? It’s easy to see how that might 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, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? The difficulty is that quite a few issues can trigger headaches! The symptoms of tinnitus, though rather common, also have a large number of causes.
The cause of your tinnitus symptoms may, in some cases, be obvious. But you may never really know in other situations. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus could be caused by the following:
- Head or neck injuries: Your head is rather sensitive! So head injuries, particularly traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up producing tinnitus symptoms.
- High blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause tinnitus symptoms for some people. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
- Hearing loss: There is a close connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be brought about by noise damage and that’s a big part of the equation here. They both have the same cause, in other words. But hearing loss can also exacerbate tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can become louder.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other blockages can cause swelling in the ear canal. As a result, your ears could begin to ring.
- Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. One of the primary causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises and this is quite prevalent. Using hearing protection if exceptionally loud locations can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this type of tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are amongst the first symptoms to manifest. Irreversible hearing loss can occur over time.
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it may cause some swelling. And tinnitus can be the outcome of this inflammation.
- Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription medicines can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you stop taking the medication, the ringing will usually go away.
If you’re able to determine the cause of your tinnitus, managing it might become easier. For example, if an earwax blockage is causing ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can alleviate your symptoms. Some individuals, however, may never recognize what causes their tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it goes away, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it occurs often). Still, having regular hearing assessments is always a good idea.
However, if your tinnitus won’t go away or keeps coming back, you should schedule some time with us to find out what’s going on (or at least begin treatment). We will perform a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and perhaps even talk about your medical history. All of that information will be used to diagnose your symptoms.
There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.
If you’re using a specific medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the base cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
For people who have chronic tinnitus then, the mission is to manage your symptoms and help ensure your tinnitus does not negatively affect your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most common:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: We may refer you to a different provider for cognitive behavior therapy. This strategy uses therapy to help you learn to disregard the tinnitus sounds.
- A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, outside sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more obvious. In these situations, a hearing aid can help raise the volume 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 device a lot like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices can be adjusted to your unique tinnitus symptoms, producing just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less obvious.
The treatment plan that we create will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus needs. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus may be invisible, but the last thing you should do is pretend it isn’t there. Your symptoms will most likely get worse if you do. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to stop them from getting worse. You should at least be sure to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.
If you’re struggling with tinnitus, contact us, we can help.