You hear a lot of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as ringing, clicking, buzzing, or hissing that no one else can hear.
Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound will start at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can worsen even when you try to go to sleep.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with 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 information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in their limbic system of the mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that’s the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally delicate.
2. Tinnitus is Hard to Talk About
How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The incapability to talk about tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it’s not something that they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive option to most.
3. Tinnitus is Annoying
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t turn down or turn off. It is a diversion that many find debilitating whether they are at home or just doing things around the office. The ringing shifts your attention making it tough to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Disrupts Sleep
This could 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’s not understood why it increases at night, but the most logical reason is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s when you lay down for the night.
A lot of men and women use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background sound is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.
5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus
Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will stop that ringing for good, some 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 correct diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise 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.
Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.
In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.
Tinnitus presents many hurdles, but there is hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain works and ways to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.