You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component since it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, hissing, clicking, or buzzing 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 more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can worsen even once you try to go to bed.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the brain creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing issue. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a hardship.
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. Up until this discovery, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that is why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there is far more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy 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 when you say it. The incapability to discuss tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell someone else, it’s not something that they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the same symptoms 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 appealing choice to most.
3. Tinnitus is Annoying
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 crippling whether they are at work or just doing things around the home. The noise shifts your focus making it tough to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep
This is one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will amp up when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it worsens at night, but the most logical reason is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time for bed.
A lot of men and women use a noise machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.
5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus
Just the idea that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will shut off that noise permanently, there are things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is essential to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.
Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, 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. Once the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus fades.
In extreme cases, your doctor may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.
Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain works and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.