Folsom Hearing Aid Center - Folsom and Placerville, CA

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 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 someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in one or both ears. Most people describe the sound as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound will start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a terrific story. Tinnitus can act up even once you attempt to get some rest.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many folks 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. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering issue. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Hard 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 failure to go over tinnitus causes a divide. Even if you can tell someone else, it’s not something they truly can relate to unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they might not have the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an attractive choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Bothersome

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t turn down or shut off. It’s a diversion that many find debilitating whether they’re at home or just doing things around the office. The noise shifts your focus which makes it tough to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and unworthy.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Sleep

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get worse 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 silence around you makes it more active. During the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time to go to bed.

A lot of men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to get some sleep.

5. There’s No Quick Fix For Tinnitus

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

Many people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and dealing with that health problem relieves the buzzing. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus fades.

In extreme cases, your physician may try to combat the tinnitus medically. 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 more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.

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