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

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

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to begin at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to get some rest.

Medical science has not 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 accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering issue. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of the mind. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there’s far more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus prickly and emotionally delicate.

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Explain

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to talk about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell someone else, it’s not something that they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a lot of people that you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive choice 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 shut off. It is a distraction that many find crippling whether they are at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise shifts your attention which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep

This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to amp up when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases at night, but the most logical explanation is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s when you lay down for the night.

Many men and women use a noise 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 lower the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you must live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that ringing for good, a few things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that issue 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 some sound to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, 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 improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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