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5 Reasons Why Living with Tinnitus Can Be Difficult

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

You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking 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 people from the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The ghost sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, trying to read a book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this noise to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering issue. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Discuss

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

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not escape. It’s a diversion that many find debilitating whether they’re at work or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your focus which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will amp up when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible reason 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 go to sleep.

Many people use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background sound is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to come to terms with. Although no cure will shut off that noise 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, maybe the noise is not tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem like TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill up the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the noise, as an example. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, like using a noise machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

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

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