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 like high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the brain creates this noise to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the brain. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were worried and that’s the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there’s much more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain

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’s not something that they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking to a lot of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t escape. It is a diversion that many find crippling whether they’re at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your focus making it hard to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest

This is one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it is when you lay down for the night.

Many people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your brain to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you must live with is hard to come to terms with. Though no cure will shut off that ringing permanently, there are things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s critical to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise is not tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem like TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be temporary, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many hurdles, but there’s hope. Science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and ways to improve life for those struggling with tinnitus.

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