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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 nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can act up even once you try to get some sleep.

Medical science has not 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 counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that’s the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there’s far more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The incapability to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the very same symptoms 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 is not an attractive choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t escape. It’s a distraction that many find debilitating whether they are at work or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your attention making it tough to remain 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 Sleep

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get louder when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other noises 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.

Many men and women use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you must live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will stop that ringing permanently, there are 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. For example, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many 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 level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there’s hope. Medical 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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