Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in one or both ears. Most people describe the noise as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can act up even when you try to go to bed.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of their brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so sensitive. This new study indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The inability to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell somebody else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It is a diversion that many find crippling if they’re at work or just doing things around the home. The ringing shifts your attention making it hard to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Interferes With Sleep

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get louder when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the silence around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s when you lay down for the night.

A lot of people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will shut off that ringing permanently, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is essential to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the noise, as an example. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain works and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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