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 plenty of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, hissing, clicking, or buzzing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to go to bed.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this noise to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing issue. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of the mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until now, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus prickly and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy when you say it. The incapability to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell someone else, it’s not something they truly understand unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means speaking to a lot of people that you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

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

4. Tinnitus Impedes Rest

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it is time to go to bed.

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

5. There is No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you must live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will shut off that noise 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 critical to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps 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 hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the result 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 sound, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

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

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