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 diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom sounds in both ears. Most folks describe the noise as buzzing, ringing, clicking, or hissing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical issue like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The ghost sound tends to start 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 terrific story. Tinnitus can act up even once you attempt to get some sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this sound to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering problem. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in their limbic system of their mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that’s 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 more irritable and emotionally delicate.

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 failure to go over tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell someone else, it is not something that they truly understand unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice 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 if they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your focus which makes it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest

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

A lot of people 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 is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you must live with is hard to accept. Although no cure will shut off that noise permanently, 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 essential to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

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