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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 these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element because it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most people describe the noise as ringing, clicking, buzzing, or hissing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The ghost sound will start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you attempt to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this noise to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that people who experience tinnitus have more activity in the limbic system of their brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new study indicates there is far more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus testy and emotionally frail.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to go over tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that means speaking to a lot of people that you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s 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’t escape. It is a distraction that many find disabling if they are at the office or just doing things around the house. The ringing changes your focus making it tough to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to get worse when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It is not understood why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the silence 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 when you lay down for the night.

Many people 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 mind to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will shut off that ringing 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 critical to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as 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 consequence of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to combat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain works and strategies to make life better for those suffering from tinnitus.

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