Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

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 such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most people describe the noise as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that nobody else can hear.

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

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus have increased activity in the limbic system of the mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists thought that people with tinnitus were worried 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 more irritable and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy 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 incapability to discuss tinnitus is isolating. Even if you can tell someone else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an appealing choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not get away from or stop. It’s a diversion that many find disabling if they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise changes your attention making it hard to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest

This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get worse when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is not understood why it worsens at night, but the most plausible explanation is that the silence around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time for bed.

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 your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will stop that noise permanently, a few things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and strategies to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.

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