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

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound will start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even once you try to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until now, most specialists thought that people with tinnitus were worried and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there’s far more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy once you say it. The incapability to discuss tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you could tell somebody 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 symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a bunch of people that you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can not turn down or turn off. It’s a diversion that many find debilitating whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The ringing shifts your focus making it tough 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 Hampers Sleep

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get louder when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It is not understood why it worsens at night, but the most logical explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time for bed.

A lot of men and women use a noise 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 your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will stop that ringing permanently, 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 essential to get a proper diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will discover 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 level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

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

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