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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 nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as 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 a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an another medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The ghost sound tends to begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can flare up even when you try to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from 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 issue. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in their limbic system of the mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most doctors believed that people with tinnitus were worried and that’s the reason why they were always so sensitive. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally frail.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Explain

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy once you say it. The failure to discuss tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a lot of people you don’t know 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 diversion that many find debilitating whether they’re at work or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your focus making it tough to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Blocks Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get worse when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases at night, but the most logical reason is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time to go to bed.

Many people use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient sound is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is 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 noise permanently, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s vital to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that problem relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill in the empty spaces. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.

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