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3 Ways Tinnitus Impacts Quality of Life

a woman with her hand to her ear

Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by unwanted sounds in the ear that are not generated by the external environment. People with tinnitus often complain of ringing, buzzing and whirring sounds in the ear that appear not to have any external cause. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 10% of people in the United States have experienced persistent tinnitus at some point in their lives. 

Tinnitus, unfortunately, is not benign. It can affect a person’s quality of life in several ways. Here’s how: 

Tinnitus reduces sleep quality and can lead to insomnia

Sleep is an essential ingredient of any healthy lifestyle. Tinnitus, however, can impact rest, both by reducing sleep quality and by making it more challenging to get to sleep in the first place. 

People who have tinnitus can often find unwanted sounds invasive and find themselves focusing on them at night. This alertness then makes it more difficult to fall asleep, causing some people to develop insomnia. 

Tinnitus can induce anxiety and depression

People with tinnitus can find that unwanted noises begin to dominate their lives. For the first few weeks, the sounds are tolerable, but over time, they become less so. Those with the condition often wonder whether they will ever eliminate the sounds generated by their ears, leading to anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and depression. 

For some people, tinnitus is intermittent. They can, therefore, fear that it will come back again in the future, leading to even more worries, especially when symptoms restart. 

Tinnitus affects a person’s ability to concentrate

If you have a constant ringing or buzzing in your ears, it can be hard to concentrate on whatever you’re doing. Complex tasks become more challenging to complete, and you can find yourself becoming frustrated. Furthermore, tinnitus can affect work performance. People of working age with the condition can find that unwanted sounds interfere with their ability to communicate with others or focus on completing projects. Tinnitus can also affect you if you are in education by making it more challenging to concentrate in lectures and seminars. 

Tinnitus can exacerbate hearing loss

Tinnitus is often a condition associated with hearing loss. Many professionals believe that tinnitus results from an underestimation of the brain’s auditory cortex. Slowly over time, the brain begins to hallucinate sounds, leading to the experience of unwanted noises that appear to have no external cause. 

The causality also goes the other way: tinnitus can worsen existing hearing loss. The unwanted sounds can become so loud that they interfere with the real noises coming through your ear. Thus, if you find it challenging to hear what people in your environment are saying, tinnitus can make it worse. 

Tinnitus can affect mood

While listening to police sirens for a few minutes per day won’t damage your mental health, hearing them all day might. If you have tinnitus, you often have to listen to unwanted sounds all hours of the day and night, which can become very annoying. Some people find that it affects their mood, making them more prone to anger and frustration. 

How to treat tinnitus

While there is no “cure” for tinnitus, audiologists and other medical professionals have developed a range of treatments designed to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. 

  • Hearing aids with masking features: Tinnitus is usually a sign of hearing loss, especially if it is persistent. Many audiologists, therefore, recommend that people with the condition wear hearing aids. The increased stimulation of the brain regions responsible for hearing can improve symptoms and provide relief. Furthermore, some hearing aids come with so-called “masking features:” sounds that they can create to cancel out tinnitus noises. Many people find that features like these provide relief. 
  • Sound machines: Just like hearing aids, sound machines work in a similar way, providing auditory inputs that block out the internal noise generated by tinnitus. 
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy: This therapy is for people living with chronic tinnitus. It helps you adjust your perspective toward the condition, making it more manageable. 
  • Earwax removal: In some circumstances, tinnitus is caused by a buildup of earwax. Audiologists can professionally remove earwax, freeing up the ear canal to conduct sounds more accurately. 

If you have tinnitus and it is affecting your quality of life, then you should seek professional help. Here at Advantage Hearing & Audiology, we offer a range of therapies, including hearing aids, that help you better manage your tinnitus. Call us at (336) 271-4944 for Greensboro and (336) 623-2422 for Eden to book your appointment with a professional audiologist today.