You hear a lot of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can flare up even once you attempt to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies 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 research indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there’s much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Tough 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 inability to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell somebody else, it’s not something that they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms 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’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or shut off. It’s a diversion that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise changes your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Sleep

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It is not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it is when you lay down for the night.

A lot of men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient sound is enough to get your mind to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

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

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.

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