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 like 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 noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem 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 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 act up even when you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the brain creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever 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 have increased activity in the limbic system of the mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is much more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to discuss tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means speaking to a lot of people you don’t know 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 sound in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find crippling whether they are at the office or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your focus making it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Disrupts Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will amp up when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It is not understood why it increases at night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to sleep.

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 ambient noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you must live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will shut off that noise for good, some things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a correct diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the buzzing. 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 may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor can provide you with 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 hurdles, but there is hope. Science is learning more each year about how the brain works and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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