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

You hear a lot of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the sound as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in their limbic system of the mind. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most specialists thought that people with tinnitus were worried and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally frail.

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Explain

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that 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 turn down or turn off. It is a distraction that many find debilitating whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The ringing shifts your focus making it hard to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep

This is one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get louder when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the silence around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to sleep.

A lot of men and women 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 mind to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will shut off that noise for good, some things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is critical to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your doctor may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus easier, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical 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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