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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 like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the sound 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 individuals in the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The ghost sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can worsen even once you attempt to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have more activity in their limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Explain

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

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t turn down or turn off. It’s a diversion that many find disabling whether they’re at work or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your attention which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest

This is one of the most crucial 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 reason is that the absence of other noises around you makes it worse. During the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to go to sleep.

Many 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 brain to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to accept. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is critical to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill a void. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain works and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.