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's a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element because it affects so many aspects of a person's life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on regular 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 book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can act up even when you attempt to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the brain 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 problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of their mind. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were stressed 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 snappy and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy 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 inability to talk about tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking 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 sound in the background that you can not get away from or stop. It's a distraction that many find debilitating whether they are at home or just doing things around work. The ringing shifts your attention which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep

This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get worse when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It's not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most logical reason is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it's time to go to sleep.

Many men and women use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician's office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it's vital to get a correct diagnosis. For 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 high blood pressure.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that issue relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill up the silence. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there is hope. Science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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