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How Quality of Life is Affected by Tinnitus

a woman with tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition characterized by persistent sounds in the ears without any obvious external cause. 

There are two kinds of tinnitus: one where the brain hallucinates the sound, and another where the machinery of the ear creates real noises. The first type of tinnitus is the most common, and there is no way, even in principle, of detecting sounds causing it. It's all in the brain. In the second type of tinnitus – that created by noises in the ear itself – a doctor could theoretically detect the sounds with a sensitive enough instrument. 

Both types, however, profoundly affect the sufferer's quality of life. Here's how.

Sleep problems

Tinnitus doesn't go away when a person tries to sleep. In fact, it can get worse and intensify at night because the sufferer doesn't have anything else on which to focus. You can lie awake for hours at a time, just listing to the ringing or buzzing noises in your ears. It's frustrating. 

Tinnitus can affect sleep quality even in people who have never had any problems with their sleep before. Some people find that tinnitus prevents them from dozing off, while others notice that they wake up in the night more frequently, or get up earlier. 

Professionals attempt to address tinnitus-induced sleep issues by using techniques which help to refocus the patient. Instead of concentrating on the tinnitus, therapists teach patients to allow their minds to wander to other things and give them techniques that they can use to help them drift off. 

Problems with hearing and hearing loss

Some hearing health professionals believe that tinnitus is the body's response to hearing loss. As a person's hearing begins to fail, the auditory cortex – the part of the brain responsible for processing incoming sounds – lacks stimulation. This reduction in stimulus encourages the brain to begin hallucinating sounds in the form of tinnitus. 

Tinnitus, however, can itself get in the way of incoming sounds, making it more difficult to hear what people are saying, regardless of any pre-existing hearing loss. The combined effect of this is to make it much more difficult for the sufferer to process incoming sounds, further worsening their quality of life. 

Tinnitus can make the simplest of daily tasks more daunting. If you suffer from ringing in your ears, for instance, you might not want to go out and see friends because you're worried about not being able to hear them. This worry then leads to isolation, which can develop into more severe depression. You may also struggle with navigating the urban environment or listening to instructions.

Fears of being overlooked

For people who do not have tinnitus, it can be challenging to understand what living with the condition is like. Those who haven't suffered from constant noises in the ears don't have a good understanding of the impact that it can have on your life. It's can seem invisible to them. You can, therefore, feel neglected by the people around you. 

Difficulty focusing 

Most of the productive tasks that adults do in the modern world require a high degree of concentration. You can't type an email or operate a forklift truck without being present in the moment and applying your conscious brain. 

When you have a ringing in your ears, however, you can sometimes struggle to maintain focus. Complex tasks become more complicated, and you may find that your performance at work suffers. 

People with tinnitus can often find themselves struggling to get work done and to an acceptably high quality. Worse still, they may be passed over for somebody else in the organization with greater merit than they, purely because of their hearing problems.

Tinnitus isn't just something which affects older adults either: it can impact students too. Young people in college or university can develop tinnitus during, making it difficult for them to complete their tasks. Impaired hearing and even intermittent tinnitus can then make it hard to hear what's being said in lectures and to concentrate on work at home.

Tinnitus, therefore, is not a minor condition or concern. It's something that can have a large impact on a person's quality of life. The good news, however, is that tinnitus isn't a condition that you have to learn to live with: there are treatments available

One of the most potent interventions is to start wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the sounds reaching your ears, stimulating the auditory cortex and suppressing the tendency to fabricate sounds. 

If you'd like to find out more about dealing with your tinnitus, get in touch with Integrity Hearing Solutions at 727-602-3899 for Mechanicsburg or 717-245-2437 for Carlisle.