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 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 which has a strong emotional component since it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can flare up even when you attempt to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion 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 emotional. This new study indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Discuss

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The failure to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same signs 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 choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t turn down or turn off. It is a distraction that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around the office. The ringing changes your focus which makes 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 mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Interferes With Rest

This is one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get worse when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it increases at night, but the most plausible explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time to go to bed.

A lot of 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 reduce the volume on the 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 help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is essential to get a proper diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise is not tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

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

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