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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 nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element since it affects so many aspects of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most people describe the noise as clicking, buzzing, hissing, or ringing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to go to bed.

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Explain

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 causes a divide. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means talking to a lot of people that you aren’t comfortable with 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 sound in the background that you can not get away from or stop. It is a distraction that many find debilitating if they’re at home or just doing things around the office. The noise shifts your attention which makes it hard to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Sleep

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to get worse when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it increases during the night, but the most plausible reason is that the lack of sounds around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything 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 relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background sound is enough to get your brain to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you must live with is tough to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that ringing 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 is essential to get a correct diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Lots of people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that issue relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill in the silence. Hearing loss may also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.

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

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