In the movies, invisibility is a powerful power. The characters can often 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.
Unfortunately, invisible health problems are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for example, is a really common condition that affects the ears. But there are no external symptoms, it doesn’t matter how thoroughly you look.
But for those who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the impact may be substantial.
What is tinnitus?
So we recognize one thing: you can’t see tinnitus. As a matter of fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, which means symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you occasionally hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Tinnitus is so common that around 25 million people experience it every day.
While ringing is the most typical manifestation of tinnitus, it isn’t the only one. Noises including humming, buzzing, crackling, clicking, and lots of others can manifest. Here’s the common denominator, anybody who has tinnitus is hearing sounds that aren’t actually there.
In most cases, tinnitus will go away quickly. But for somewhere between 2-5 million people, tinnitus is a chronic, sometimes debilitating condition. Here’s one way to think about it: 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 you can’t get rid of that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly affected.
What causes tinnitus?
Have you ever attempted to identify the cause of a headache? Are you catching a cold, are you stressed, or is it allergies? Lots of things can cause a headache and that’s the issue. The symptoms of tinnitus, though relatively common, also have a wide variety of causes.
In some cases, it may be really clear what’s causing your tinnitus symptoms. But you may never really know in other cases. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus might be caused by the following:
- Colds or allergies: If a lot of mucus accumulates in your ears, it could cause some swelling. This swelling can cause tinnitus.
- Head or neck injuries: The head and neck are really sensitive systems. Ringing in your ears can be brought on by traumatic brain injuries including concussions.
- Ear infections or other blockages: Similar to a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This sometimes triggers ringing in your ears.
- High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus may be caused by high blood pressure. If this is the situation, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor in order to help regulate your blood pressure.
- Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a wide range of symptoms. Dizziness and tinnitus are among the first symptoms to appear. With time, Meniere’s disease can lead to permanent hearing loss.
- Noise damage: Tinnitus symptoms can be caused by exposure to overly loud noise over time. This is so prevalent that loud noises are one of the leading causes of tinnitus! Using ear protection if very loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to prevent this type of tinnitus.
- Certain medications: Certain over-the-counter or prescription medications can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Once you quit taking the medication, the ringing will typically go away.
- Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a big part of the situation here. In other words, both of them have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the rest of the world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
Treatment will clearly be easier if you can figure out the source of your tinnitus symptoms. For example, if an earwax blockage is triggering ringing in your ears, clearing that earwax can reduce your symptoms. Some people, however, may never know what’s causing their tinnitus symptoms.
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 happens often). Still, having regular hearing tests is always a good idea.
But you should certainly make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t subside or if it continues to come back. We will ask you about your symptoms, talk to you about how your quality of life is being affected, perform a hearing exam, and probably discuss your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.
Tinnitus isn’t a condition that has a cure. But it can be treated and it can be managed.
If you’re using a particular medication or have an underlying medical condition, your symptoms will improve when you deal with the underlying cause. However, if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus, there will be no root condition that can be easily corrected.
So controlling symptoms so they have a limited impact on your life is the objective if you have chronic tinnitus. There are lots of things that we can do to help. Among the most common are the following:
- 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 masking device: This is a hearing aid-like device that masks sounds instead of amplifying them. These devices can be calibrated to your specific tinnitus symptoms, creating just enough sound to make that ringing or buzzing substantially less noticeable.
- A hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes noticeable because your hearing loss is making everything else relatively quieter. The buzzing or ringing will be less evident when your hearing aid increases the volume of the external world.
We will develop a personalized and distinct treatment plan for you and your tinnitus. Helping you get back to enjoying your life by controlling your symptoms is the goal here.
If you have tinnitus, what should you do?
Tinnitus might be invisible, but the last thing you should do is act like it isn’t there. Odds are, those symptoms will only get worse. It’s better to get ahead of your symptoms because you might be able to prevent them from growing worse. You should at least be certain 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.