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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 like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not 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 daily basis. The phantom sound tends to 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 story. Tinnitus can flare up even once you try to get some rest.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this noise to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering problem. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Discuss

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 incapability to discuss tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly understand unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but it means talking to a lot of people 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 not escape. It’s a diversion that many find debilitating whether they’re at home or just doing things around the office. The ringing shifts your attention which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Sleep

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it increases at night, but the most logical explanation is that the lack of sounds around you makes it worse. During the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it is 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 ambient sound is enough to get your brain to reduce the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will shut off that noise permanently, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is critical to get a correct diagnosis. By way of example, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound is not tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem like 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 result of hearing loss and coping with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, 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. Once the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor can provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many hurdles, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and strategies to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.