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

You hear a lot of talk these days about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness which has a strong psychological element because it affects so many aspects of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most folks describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical issue like hearing loss and something that more than 50 million individuals from the U.S. deal with on daily basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can worsen even once you try to get some sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing problem. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a hardship.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Explain

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises coming from inside your head and not feel crazy when you say it. The helplessness to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you are able to tell someone else, it is not something they truly get unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means speaking to a bunch of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice 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’s a distraction that many find disabling whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your attention making it hard to stay on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.

4. Tinnitus Interferes With Sleep

This is 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 plausible explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other noises ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it is time to sleep.

A lot of men and women use a noise 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 reduce the volume on your tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to accept. Although no cure will stop that ringing for good, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is essential to get a correct diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise is not 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.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that issue relieves the buzzing. 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 empty spaces. Hearing loss may also be quick to treat, such as earwax build up. Once the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your specialist may attempt to combat the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help reduce the noise, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make living with tinnitus simple, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to handle anxiety.

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