You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that nobody else can hear.
Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to get some rest.
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 noise to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of their mind. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so emotional. This new study indicates there’s far more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus testy and emotionally sensitive.
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 when you say it. The failure to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it is not something that they truly get 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 you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an attractive choice to most.
3. Tinnitus is Annoying
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or shut off. It is a diversion that many find crippling if they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your focus which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest
This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get worse when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to go to sleep.
A lot of people 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 mind to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.
5. There is No Quick Fix For Tinnitus
Just the concept that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will stop that noise permanently, some things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s critical to get a proper diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as 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 coping with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill up the silence. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.
In extreme cases, your specialist may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.
Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and ways to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.