You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element because it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most folks describe the sound as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that nobody 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 regular basis. The ghost sound will begin 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 act up even when you try to get some rest.
Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this noise to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a hardship.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of the brain. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most specialists thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that’s why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is much more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally fragile.
2. Tinnitus is Tough to Explain
How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy once you say it. The helplessness to tell others about tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means talking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s 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’t get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find disabling if they’re at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise shifts your focus making it hard 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 might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get worse when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is unclear why it worsens at night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to go to bed.
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 lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow 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 come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that ringing 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’s vital to get a correct diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.
Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Obtaining 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 doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.
In extreme cases, your physician may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make living 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.