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The potential consequences of having Tinnitus can be devastating for some and there are multiple ways in which Tinnitus can impact an individual and his/her life.  Each of these dimensions can exist on their own or feed into each other. A vicious feedback loop can be created reinforcing the distress experienced by the person with Tinnitus.

Emotional Dimension:

The person with Tinnitus can feel a myriad of emotions.  These include feelings of depression, anger, resentment, irritability, anxiety, fear, distress, panic, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, worry, isolation and loneliness.  Due to the potential changes in the person’s life, grief reactions are experienced in response to these losses; especially the loss of silence.  Some people feel that they cannot imagine living the rest of their life with the ‘sound’ and question the purpose and value of their life.  It is vital that if you have any thoughts of suicide, that you will immediately contact a medical professional, therapist, go to the hospital or contact a loved one who can help keep you safe.  Support and guidance on how to become less overwhelmed is available and you do not have to go through this alone.

Cognitive Dimension:

The Tinnitus can impair concentration and memory due to the intrusiveness of the sound and how it interferes with the ability to focus and pay attention.  An obsessive preoccupation with the Tinnitus can lead to the development of negative patterns of thought, attitudes and beliefs about the Tinnitus.  The negative content of one’s thinking leads to increased distress and interferes with effective coping.

Social Dimension:

People with Tinnitus can find themselves withdrawing from previously enjoyed social interaction and activity.  Some might believe that family and friends don’t always understand and decide that it might be easier just to decrease contact rather than try to explain a condition that has no visible signs of discomfort.  Avoidance behaviors can also come in the form of sleeping more or ‘self-medicating’.  Increased isolation from people, places and things however will only serve to create more time to ruminate, worry and feel more depressed.  Loved one’s of the person with Tinnitus are impacted socially as well.  They too will experience losses due to their partner’s withdrawal from them and aspects of their life together.

Occupational Dimension:

Sometimes the Tinnitus is a result of an occupational accident as in the form of a loud explosion or constant exposure to high levels of sound.  There can be changes in identity, role, income and employment when the Tinnitus prevents the person from effectively doing their current job or when the distress is so overwhelming that their functioning and performance is affected.  Changes of this nature can affect a person’s sense of purpose and self-worth and can contribute to the development of depression.

Relationship Dimension:

Relationships can experience increased conflict and strain due to changes in communication and interaction with others in general.  The tinnitus can feel like an “intruder” in the relationship and resentment, disappointment, and loneliness can be experienced. 

Physical Dimension:

Stress is experienced by those with any chronic medical condition and is a factor in exacerbating symptoms.  These symptoms could manifest physically in the form of increased headaches, muscle tension and other somatic complaints.  Sleeping is disturbed for many as it is either the only ‘escape’ from the sound, or it is a ‘sound nightmare’.  Impaired sleep can lead to increased irritability, anxiety and stress; again aggravating the Tinnitus.

Spiritual Dimension:

No one can ever be prepared for the tremendous impact, disruption and despair that can be brought about by a chronic medical condition.  For some people, it can create an inner struggle around beliefs and faith.  You may feel abandoned, angry and confused as you try to search for answers to the “why” questions and try to find meaning and purpose in something unseen and only heard by you.


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