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

You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on regular 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 book or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can worsen even when you try to get some rest.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of their brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were worried and that is the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Explain

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to talk about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a lot of people that you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an appealing choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find debilitating whether they are at the office or just doing things around the house. The ringing shifts your focus making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Disrupts Rest

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It is not certain why it increases at night, but the most plausible explanation is that the silence around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to sleep.

A lot of people use a noise machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background sound is enough to get your mind to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will stop that ringing permanently, some things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s vital to get a proper diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing 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 up the silence. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to combat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, 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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