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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 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 psychological element because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on daily 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 book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can flare up even once you try to go to bed.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this noise to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering problem. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of their brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, 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 far more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The inability to discuss tinnitus is isolating. 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 the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking to a lot of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t turn down or shut off. It is a diversion that many find disabling if they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise shifts your focus which makes it hard to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Disrupts Rest

This is one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it worsens at night, but the most plausible reason is that the lack of sounds around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to sleep.

Many men and women use a noise 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 lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you have to live with is tough to come to terms with. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s vital to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe 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 hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and ways to improve life for those struggling with tinnitus.

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