5 Reasons Why Living with Tinnitus Can Be Difficult

Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not 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 regular basis. The ghost sound tends to begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can worsen even once you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the brain creates this noise to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The helplessness to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell someone else, it’s not something they truly understand unless they suffer from 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 lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an appealing option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can not get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find debilitating if they are at the office or just doing things around the home. The noise shifts your focus making it hard to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Rest

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It is not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it is time to sleep.

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 brain to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will shut off that ringing for good, a few things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill in the silence. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your doctor may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, such as 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 works and strategies to improve life for those struggling with tinnitus.

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