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

You hear plenty 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 that has a strong emotional component since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in one or both ears. Most people describe the noise as ringing, clicking, buzzing, or hissing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that over 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The phantom sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can flare up even once you try to go to bed.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. 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 brain. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors believed that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that is why they were always so emotional. This new study indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to discuss tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it’s not something that they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means speaking to a lot of people that you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an appealing option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can not get away from or stop. It is a diversion that many find crippling if they are at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your attention making it tough to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Sleep

This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time to go to sleep.

A lot of men and women 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 Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to come to terms with. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, a few 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 example, if you hear clicking, perhaps 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 hypertension.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping 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 make some sound to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus disappears.

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 ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.

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

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