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Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to go to sleep.

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of their mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The inability to discuss tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that means speaking to a lot of people that you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or shut off. It’s a distraction that many find debilitating whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The ringing changes your focus making 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 useless.

4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will amp up when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it worse. During the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s when you lay down for the night.

A lot of people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your mind to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will shut off that noise permanently, some things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’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 sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill up the silence. Hearing loss may also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, like using a sound machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many hurdles, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain works and ways to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.

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