Tinnitus: when and how to take action
How long have you been coping with that ringing-in-your-ears sensation? If it’s been more than a week, there’s a possibility it’s tinnitus, a condition accompanied by a persistent ringing, whistling, hissing or clicking noise in the inner ear.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), the word “tinnitus” comes from a Latin word meaning “to ring or tinkle like a bell.” While that sounds pleasant, the reality is much more obnoxious. Depending on the potential cause of tinnitus, it may be urgent to see a doctor. The ATA lists the following as potential causes of tinnitus:
- Noise exposure
- Head/neck trauma
- Certain disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and thoracic outlet syndrome
- Certain types of tumors
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ototoxic medications
- Meniere’s disease
- Abnormal blood flow, brain tumors or irregularities in brain structure, resulting in pulsatile tinnitus.
Tinnitus is actually a symptom, not a disease. It is an indicator of an underlying condition. In the event the cause of your tinnitus is the result of physical trauma, you should seek medical care immediately. Tinnitus can also arise gradually and worsen over time, confusing and disorienting the person suffering from it. Some conditions are treatable, while others are not. But if your doctor can’t cure your tinnitus, it’s likely he or she can at least alleviate its effects and improve your life.
Some of the underlying causes of tinnitus can be severe if left untreated. If you don’t already know the cause of your tinnitus, you should seek a physician in determining if there is a more urgent health matter at hand. Heart disease, for instance, can be one of the causes and can lead to heart attack and death if ignored. Lyme disease, another potential cause, can also lead to infection in your joints, heart and nervous system. Tinnitus can also be brought on by high cholesterol, which can have fatal consequences if not properly managed.
Seeking treatment is crucial to your well-being, even if your doctor can’t rid you of the ailment entirely. Dealing with a constant ringing in your ears can have a major impact on your mental health. If you have tinnitus, you know the emotional and mental side effects can be debilitating. Countless studies have been done chronicling the successes of tinnitus treatment therapy, in which patients are taught mental coping techniques to better manage the stress of tinnitus. A therapist may also be able to teach you tinnitus relief techniques, reducing the condition’s mental effects and restoring your ability to concentrate on school, work, family and friends.
Depression is a frequent side effect of tinnitus. The constant noise, combined with the loss of the ability to concentrate and a feeling of helplessness can have a significant effect on your emotional health. People suffering from depression often find themselves on a downward spiral, finding it harder and harder to pull themselves back out as it gets progressively worse. Since tinnitus is frequently a manageable and potentially curable condition, a lot of support and help is available for those suffering from it. Counselors, therapists and advocacy groups exist to help you coexist with your tinnitus. But you have to look for them, because they won’t come find you. If you think you are experiencing tinnitus but are still unsure, contact a hearing healthcare professional in your area today.