You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as 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 a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that nobody else can hear.
Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can flare up even when you attempt to go to bed.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in their limbic system of their mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new study indicates there’s much more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus prickly and emotionally delicate.
2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About
How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy once you say it. The helplessness to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell someone else, it is not something that they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means talking to a lot of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an appealing option to most.
3. Tinnitus is Distracting
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It’s a diversion that many find disabling whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The noise shifts your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and useless.
4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest
This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get louder when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the silence around you makes it worse. During the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it is time to go to sleep.
A lot of people use a sound 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 reduce the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.
5. There is No Quick Fix For Tinnitus
Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to accept. Although no cure will shut off that noise for good, some 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. For example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.
Many people will discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus vanishes.
In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus easier, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.
Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain works and strategies to improve life for those struggling with tinnitus.