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

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can act up even once you attempt to go to sleep.

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 noise to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of the brain. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new study indicates there’s far more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus prickly and emotionally frail.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Discuss

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to tell others about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you can tell someone else, it’s not something that 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 it means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with 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 noise in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It is a diversion that many find disabling if they’re at work or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your attention which makes it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Sleep

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get louder when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It is unclear why it increases during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as 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 background sound is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that ringing for good, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss may also be temporary, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain works and ways to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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