You hear plenty of talk these days 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 emotional component since it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises 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 underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound will begin at the most inconvenient 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 worsen even once you try 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 mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists believed that individuals with tinnitus were stressed and that’s why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there’s much more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally sensitive.
2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Discuss
How do you explain to someone 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 is isolating. Even if you can tell someone else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a lot of people that you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice to most.
3. Tinnitus is Bothersome
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t escape. It is a distraction that many find debilitating if they are at work or just doing things around the home. The noise changes your attention which makes it hard to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.
4. Tinnitus Disrupts Sleep
This might be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get louder when a person is trying to fall asleep. It is unclear why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it worse. During the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s when you lay down for the night.
A lot of men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.
5. There’s No Cure For Tinnitus
Just the concept that tinnitus is something you must live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will stop that noise permanently, there are 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 example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise 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 coping with that issue 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 temporary, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.
In extreme cases, your doctor may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the noise, as an example. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes which should alleviate 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 is hope. Science is learning more each year about how the brain functions and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.