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

You hear plenty of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as 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 ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound will start at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you attempt to go to bed.

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there is far more to it than simple stress. There is 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 inability to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell someone else, it is not something that they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or turn off. It’s a distraction that many find disabling if they are at work or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your focus making it hard to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Impedes Sleep

This is one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get louder when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the silence around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is when you lay down for the night.

A lot of people use a sound 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 lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you must live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will stop that ringing permanently, 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 vital to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. 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 silence. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to combat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many hurdles, 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.

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