Challenges People With Tinnitus Face Daily

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

Challenges People With Tinnitus Face Daily


Individuals with tinnitus describe it as a ringing, rushing, clicking, buzzing, or whooshing sound without an external cause. Without experiencing tinnitus, however, it can be difficult to understand what a loved one is going through. Here are some of the challenges people with tinnitus face daily.

Workplace Challenges

People with tinnitus may find it difficult to conduct their normal business activities.

  • Phones: Tinnitus, especially when caused by hearing loss, can make it hard to distinguish individual words when talking on the phone. Individuals with tinnitus symptoms may get frustrated as they continually ask people to repeat themselves. The client, customer, or coworker on the other end of the line may also become frustrated or short-tempered. So much of the average office job requires a phone that those with severe tinnitus may be unable to continue doing the job they are trained to do.
  • Concentration: For some people, the ringing in their ears is a minor annoyance they can ignore. For others, tinnitus can be so distressing it drives people to consider suicide to end their suffering. If tinnitus is distracting or distressing, it can make concentration on and off the job more difficult. Mistakes can paint the employee in a bad light and lessen people’s confidence in them. Every day may feel draining as they struggle to keep up with coworkers with normal hearing.
  • Conversation: Even face-to-face, people with tinnitus may not be able to understand the conversation, especially if there’s background noise or more than one person talking. Group meetings or meetings in public places may make it impossible to keep track of what’s going on, let alone contribute.
  • Safety: Tinnitus could be a safety hazard if the individual works in a factory, warehouse, construction job, or other potentially dangerous location and cannot hear alarms or warnings from colleagues.

All of these issues can interfere with a person’s ability to support themselves. It can be challenging to find a job that can accommodate these issues, which is why tinnitus is a common cause for seeking disability.

Social Challenges

  • Isolation: When someone always feels left out of the conversation, they can lose interest in socializing outside controlled environments. They may withdraw from favorite pastimes, friends, and family. They might also get defensive when well-meaning people try to encourage them to participate, which can further strain relationships.
  • Travel: Public transportation can be more difficult to navigate with tinnitus.
    • Planes can increase tinnitus symptoms as cabin pressures increase or decrease with altitude. While waiting in the terminal, individuals may not hear if the flight attendant changes the gate where the plane will board, and they may miss their flight altogether. Crowded planes may also worsen tinnitus symptoms as noise is plentiful.
    • Bus terminals can be noisy and confusing. Individuals may not hear when they get to their stop. It may be challenging to ask for directions.
    • Train stations can be loud and crowded, making it difficult to listen to instructions or concentrate. The constant sound of the train on the rails might exacerbate tinnitus symptoms.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Many people with tinnitus find falling or staying asleep impossible. Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to mood changes, an inability to handle stress, strained interactions with family members, and an overall pessimistic outlook. Extreme sleep deprivation can even lead to psychosis. Sleep disturbances can also make it difficult for the person’s spouse or partner to get a good night’s rest, which can cause tension in the home.
  • Depression: Tinnitus symptoms can lead to depression as individuals deal with all the new complications in their lives. Depression is worse for people who self-isolate as they can let tinnitus create a disproportionately large amount of stress and malcontent. People can turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and depression, including self-harm, addictive behaviors, and addictive substances. These self-destructive coping mechanisms can cause as many negative consequences or more than tinnitus.
  • Independence: When tinnitus interferes with daily activities, like driving, individuals may rely more and more on others. This is hard for people who have been independent for a long time. It can damage self-esteem and cause resentment when family members are forced to take the car keys. Tasks they once performed independently before must now happen on someone else’s schedule.

Wrap Up

Whether suffering from tinnitus from loud noises, tinnitus due to stress, trauma, disease, genetics, or the relentless passage of time, people with tinnitus often struggle with the very real and impactful effects of the condition. It’s essential to understand the stress tinnitus causes to an individual as it changes nearly every aspect of their lives.

Encourage loved ones to see a provider as soon as possible to look for the underlying causes of tinnitus symptoms. Early treatment will provide the best chance of reversing tinnitus. The longer symptoms continue, the harder it is to treat. A proactive approach increases the chances of finding lasting tinnitus relief.


Challenges People With Tinnitus Face Daily

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