You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing that no one else can hear.
Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can worsen even once you attempt to get some sleep.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the brain. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most specialists believed that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than just stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus testy and emotionally sensitive.
2. Tinnitus is Hard to Explain
How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy once you say it. The failure to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly get unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means speaking to a lot of people you don’t know 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’t escape. It’s a distraction that many find disabling whether they’re at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your focus which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest
This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get worse 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 absence of other noises around you makes it worse. During the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to go to bed.
A lot of people use a noise 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 your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.
5. There’s No Quick Fix For Tinnitus
Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will shut off that ringing permanently, a few things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is vital to get a correct diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise isn’t 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 discover their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the noise they hear. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.
In extreme cases, your specialist may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus easier, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.
Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there’s hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.