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 these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to get some sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the brain creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing issue. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in their limbic system of the mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were worried and that’s the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new study indicates there’s much more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Discuss

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy once you say it. The inability to go over tinnitus causes a disconnect. 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 signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, 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 Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It’s a diversion that many find disabling if they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise changes your attention which makes 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 worthless.

4. Tinnitus Impedes Sleep

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get worse when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time for bed.

A lot of men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your brain to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you must live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will shut off 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 vital to get a correct diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will discover 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 amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to make life better for those suffering from tinnitus.

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