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 diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to begin 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 worsen even once you try to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. 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-altering problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of their mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most doctors believed that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so sensitive. 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 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 helplessness to go over tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly understand unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that means talking to a bunch of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or turn off. It is a distraction that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around work. The noise shifts your attention making it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Sleep

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get worse when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it increases during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence around you makes it more active. During the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s when you lay down for the night.

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

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that noise permanently, there are things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like 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 coping with that health 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 create it to fill a void. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

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

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