Audiology Specialty Clinic - Sioux Falls, SD

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 like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong psychological element since it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most people describe the noise as hissing, clicking, buzzing, or ringing that nobody 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 individuals in the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The ghost sound tends to begin 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 great tale. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to get some sleep.

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

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Explain

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that don’t exist and not feel crazy once you say it. The helplessness to go over tinnitus is isolating. Even if you are able to tell somebody else, it’s not something that they truly can relate to 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 that you don’t know 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 noise in the background that you can not turn down or turn off. It’s a diversion that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your focus which makes it tough to remain on track. The inability to focus that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Disrupts Rest

This could 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’s not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time for bed.

Many men and women use a noise machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will shut off that noise for good, some things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is vital to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem such as TMJ. For many, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the result of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill in the silence. Hearing loss can also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus disappears.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes which should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.

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

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