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

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical issue 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 are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can act up even once you try to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this noise to balance the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent information indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of their mind. This system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most specialists believed that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so emotional. This new study indicates there’s much more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus snappy and emotionally sensitive.

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to go over tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it is not something that they truly understand unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an appealing option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Distracting

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can’t escape. It is a distraction that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around work. The noise changes your focus which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Hampers Rest

This could be one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will get louder when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It’s not certain why it worsens during the night, but the most plausible explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more noticeable. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to go to bed.

Many people use a noise machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient sound is enough to get your brain to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is tough to accept. Although no cure will shut off that noise for good, some 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 proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

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

In extreme cases, your physician may try to treat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus easier, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there’s hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to make life better for those suffering from tinnitus.