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 ailments such as 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 areas of someone’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost sounds in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, hissing, clicking, or buzzing that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not 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 regular basis. The phantom sound will begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you’re watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a magazine or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can act up even once you try to go to sleep.

Medical science has not quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this noise to counteract the silence that comes with hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing issue. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

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

2. Tinnitus is Not Easy to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy when you say it. The failure to go over tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you could tell somebody else, it’s not something they truly get unless they experience it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means talking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is 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 turn down or turn off. It is a distraction that many find debilitating whether they are at home or just doing things around work. The ringing changes your attention making it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Hinders Rest

This could be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a person is trying to fall asleep. It’s unclear why it increases during the night, but the most logical explanation is that the absence of other noises around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other noises ease the noise of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn everything all off when it’s time to sleep.

A lot of people use a noise machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on the tinnitus and allow you to fall asleep.

5. There’s No Magic Cure For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to accept. Though no cure will stop that ringing for good, there are things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s critical to get a proper diagnosis. For example, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound is not tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.

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

In extreme cases, your doctor may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Antidepressants may help lower the noise, as an example. The doctor may suggest lifestyle changes which should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, like using a noise machine and finding ways to manage anxiety.

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