What is Tinnitus?
Fifty million Americans, almost one in six, live with tinnitus. Tinnitus is the incessant sense that you are hearing a sound that is not actually present in your environment. This sound is most often described as “ringing in your ears” but those who suffer from it describe it in a multitude of manners: roaring, whistling, buzzing, hissing, whooshing, chirping. There are innumerable reasons that might provoke its onset, but fundamentally, no matter what variation, it is a symptom of an injury to the auditory system.
Enduring the unrelenting ordeal of the symptoms is most frequently enough for a doctor to diagnose tinnitus without any further investigation. But proper treatment does require that a doctor identify the underlying condition that is the cause of the tinnitus. To do so requires examinations that go far beyond just one’s ears. For example, the perception of incessant clicking is most frequently caused by an injury in one’s neck muscles and a humming in your ears is most frequently a sign of high blood pressure.
Though great advances toward a cure for tinnitus continue to be made, no cure exists yet. Treating the injured neck muscles or high blood pressure would be the remedies for the above examples. But there is not yet a way to effectively halt the signal of the brain’s perception of the constant sound. It is simple to imagine the anxiety and depression that commonly emerge from such a cloying and abiding stress.
The Compounded Impacts of Tinnitus
One need not live with tinnitus themselves to imagine how consequential its impacts could become. Hearing trouble challenges communication in the most fundamental way, straining one’s closest relationships as well as the ability to connect simply and superficially with strangers as social life often requires. Obviously this leads to feelings of isolation. The once simple pleasures of joking and sharing observations become difficult and the more nuanced subtleties of complex communication are nearly impossible to achieve before fatigue sets in. Trust dissipates.
It is simple to see why people who suffer from tinnitus intuitively choose to socially withdraw. And it may happen so gradually that they may not even recognize themselves that they are doing so. But worst of all, it is alone, in quiet, when the symptoms of tinnitus reveal themselves most acutely. And here is where the symptoms quickly compound and accelerate. Feeling socially isolated becomes depression. Feeling powerless becomes frustration. Feeling depressed and powerless becomes anxiety. Anxiety leads to increasing social withdrawal which exacerbates the swarm of bad feelings that already abounds.
This continuously increasing intensity can easily provoke cognitive decline. Feeling cutoff from others and confused, it is not surprising at all that one might panic a little and act out impulsively to regain any sense of control. This erratic behavior intensifies the sense of alienation.
The higher medical expenses and lower wages that commonly result from hearing troubles of any kind aggravate the situation even more. And so too do the realities of the neural science. The rogue auditory signals sent to your brain actually rewrite the normal neural pathways, forcing your brain to exert extra energy, creating even more fatigue and disorientation.
What To Do
If you are suffering from tinnitus it is time you stop and take a moment to consider your situation with a clear head. You need to prioritize your own evolving needs and recalibrate with intentionality. Your personal sense of well-being and professional opportunities depend on it. Admit that your condition is real and do not minimize its severity. Commit to investing whatever time and energy is necessary to address it.
Seek the guidance of a trained specialist. They will determine the correct combination of treatments unique to your specific needs that will reduce your suffering tremendously. Whether your tinnitus is the result of an underlying condition or noise-induced hearing loss, a range of options is available to you to immediately help alleviate the emotional, mental, and psychological stress. Hearing aids, masking devices, white noise machines, behavioral treatments and therapy are all simple solutions compared to the potential risks of social isolation, depression, and cognitive decline. Research The American Tinnitus Association (ATA), the country’s largest non-profit resource on tinnitus, to connect with others. And make an appointment with a specialist today.