Permanently exhausted? It could be your tinnitus.

Tinnitus fatigue is a thing: a real condition that many of us with tinnitus experience. I’m not talking about being tired, like after a day spent staring at the computer. I’m talking about body and brain being utterly knackered from the daily challenges of living with tinnitus.

There are plenty of reasons why tinnitus can leave us absolutely shattered…

We struggle to hear

If you find yourself struggling to hear others because of your tinnitus, that’s going to make you fatigued. Trying to distinguish the voice you want to hear from the bells, whistles, hisses and trumpets of your tinnitus, challenges not just your brain but your body too. Because we don’t just listen with our ears.

When we’re struggling to catch a conversation we focus on people’s mouths so we can use their lip shapes to help us make out what they are saying. We’re mentally shuffling through a list of potential clues for what a word might be. Did they say most, boast or post? The lip shapes for those words all look very similar, so our brain has to think through context and probability in micro-seconds to decide what has been said.

And I don’t know about you, but I lean forward, tensing my neck, shoulders and back muscles in a desperate attempt to hear! I’m not entirely convinced it makes a difference, but it has become an automatic habit now. By the end of a meeting, or a chat in a noisy environment, I feel like I’ve done a mental and physical workout.

We plan and assess risk

Life with tinnitus can lose its spontaneity. If friends suggest a night out at a restaurant we have to essentially assess what risk that might pose to us; whether it might lead to a tinnitus spike the next day that we’re not prepared to live with. Will the volume levels be comfortable? Is there an open kitchen? Is the venue big and echoey with lots of hard surfaces? Is it possible to reserve a table in a quieter section? That’s a mental load many people without tinnitus would never imagine.

We live with an unpredictable condition

Many of us with tinnitus find that the sounds and the volume change not only day-to-day, but also during the day as well. We might open our eyes each morning not knowing what kind of tinnitus will greet us. That daily uncertainty can be exhausting to live with. Accepting that uncertainty; accepting that this is how tinnitus rolls can make a big difference. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely absolutely achievable.

We have to explain our tinnitus over and over

Tinnitus is an invisible condition. We don’t have a plaster cast on to remind people that we are living with a health challenge. So people forget. That’s not them being mean or dismissive of your tinnitus (well, not generally!). It’s simply how most human beings are programmed. We are very focused on ourselves. So, unless you walk around like this:

people aren’t going to remember. Whenever they suggest doing an activity you might struggle with, such as going to the cinema to watch a super-loud action film, you have to explain – again – that, no your tinnitus hasn’t disappeared, yes it still bothers you, and that while you’d love to watch Mission Impossible 93 you don’t feel able to cope with the surround sound of the cinema right now.

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while you’ll know I am a fan of packing decent filtered earplugs and just doing these things anyway, but I appreciate that might not be where you are in your tinnitus journey just now. If you want help to get there, take a look at my course and my coaching

We’re mentally distressed

Living with tinnitus that’s distressing can lead to anxiety, depression, stress, irritability, anger, frustration, sadness and… lack of sleep. And that’s on top of all the emotions everyone experiences just because of, well, life. Experiencing these feelings, whether you fight against them or get absorbed by them, is a true energy zapper.

We’re taking medication

If you’re on prescription medication for anxiety, depression or Meniere’s disease, or for something completely unrelated to tinnitus, you may experience tiredness as a side effect. Often this wears off after the first few weeks as your body adjusts, but maybe it hasn’t. And that’s another factor in your tinnitus fatigue.

We’re our own worst enemy

And then there’s us. Our self-critical voice that likes to tell us how we’re to blame for our tinnitus, how weak we are for not coping with it as well as others seem to, how we’re becoming a burden and holding friends and family back from enjoying life, how we’re not good enough for our partner, and a rubbish parent to our kids.

If this sounds familiar, I want you to know that you are not weak, a burden, guilty, boring or any other negative labels our self-critical voice likes to give us. You need to give yourself a good dose of self-compassion

So, yes, if you’re feeling mentally and physically exhausted living life with tinnitus, I hope you realise that you have good reason. But does that mean you can’t have a good quality-of-life even with tinnitus? Heck no!

The added challenge of tinnitus might make life feel like it’s harder work. BUT you can still lead a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. If that statement makes you goggle in disbelief then grab a cuppa and have a read of more of my articles with practical suggestions on improving your life with tinnitus. Or take a look at how I’ve helped others to take back control of their tinnitus.

Until next month…

Lisa x