Audio Life Hearing Center- Knoxville, TN

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 ailments such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element because it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, hissing, clicking, or buzzing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can act up even when you attempt to go to bed.

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in their limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Explain

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to go over tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it is not something they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an appealing option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can not turn down or turn off. It is a distraction that many find disabling if they are at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your attention which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get louder when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It is not certain why it worsens at night, but the most plausible explanation 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 off everything when it’s time to sleep.

A lot of people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient sound is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s critical to get a proper 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 many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that issue relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill a void. Hearing loss may also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.

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

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