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 diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing 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 over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound tends to begin at the worst possible 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 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 accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals 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 this discovery, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that’s why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is far 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 incapability to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you can tell someone else, it is not something they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a bunch of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an appealing option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find debilitating whether they’re at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Interferes With Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It is not understood why it worsens during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time for bed.

A lot of people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background sound is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the 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. Though no cure will shut off that noise for good, some 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 correct 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 many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

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

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