You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments like high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing that nobody else can hear.
Tinnitus technically isn’t 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 daily basis. The ghost sound tends to begin at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can act up even when you try to get some rest.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a hardship.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of the mind. 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 is why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is far more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally frail.
2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain
How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability 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 experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.
3. Tinnitus is Distracting
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t escape. It is a diversion that many find crippling whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Inhibits Rest
This is one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to amp up when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. During the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as 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 background noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.
5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus
Just the concept that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that noise for good, there are things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is critical to get a correct diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound is not 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 high blood pressure.
Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that problem relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.
In extreme cases, your doctor may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.
Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and strategies to make life better for those suffering from tinnitus.