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5 Reasons Why Living with Tinnitus Can Be Challenging

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 which has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing 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 over 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound will start at the worst possible 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 act up even when you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted 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 issue. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most doctors believed that people with tinnitus were stressed and that’s the reason why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus prickly and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Hard 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 incapability to go over tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that means talking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t turn down or turn off. It’s a diversion that many find crippling whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your focus which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Impedes Rest

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get louder when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is not certain why it worsens at night, but the most plausible explanation is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to go to sleep.

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

5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although 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’s critical to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill up the silence. Hearing loss may also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a sound machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

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

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