Bright Audiology - Sanford, NC

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’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component since it affects so many areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, buzzing, clicking or hissing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The ghost sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can flare up even once you try to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this noise to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of 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 people who experience tinnitus have increased activity in their limbic system of the brain. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is the reason why they were always so emotional. This new theory indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to tell others about tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you can tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly understand unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means talking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can not turn down or shut off. It is a distraction that many find debilitating whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the house. The ringing shifts your attention making it hard to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits 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 is not understood why it increases during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the silence around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time for bed.

A lot of people 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 mind to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you have to live with is tough to accept. Though no cure will shut off 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 is essential to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound 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 high blood pressure.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. 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 hurdles, but there’s hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.

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