Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

You hear plenty of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic ailments such as diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most folks 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 another medical problem like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible 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 act up even when you try to go to bed.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The accepted theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of their brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most specialists believed that people with tinnitus were stressed and that’s the reason why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is far more to it than just stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus touchy and emotionally frail.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The inability to discuss tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you can tell somebody else, it is not something they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means talking to a bunch of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t get away from or stop. It’s a distraction that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise changes your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest

This is one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing tends to amp up when a person is attempting to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it worsens 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 like the TV, but you turn off everything when it is time to sleep.

Many people use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your brain to lower 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 hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will shut off that ringing for good, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t 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.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to make some sound to fill up the silence. Hearing loss may also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your physician may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more each year about how the brain works and strategies to make life better for those suffering from tinnitus.