The Science Behind Why Tinnitus Makes It Incredibly Hard to Focus

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Do you or someone you love have tinnitus? Then you may know that this condition can make it difficult to focus, whether it be while reading, completing a puzzle, watching a movie, or listening to someone speak. This can make many tasks and day-to-day activities quite challenging for both the sufferer and those interacting with them, to say the least.

But why does tinnitus cause difficulty focusing, you might wonder? Read on to find out.

Changes in Brain Networks

While there’s still more research yet to be done, one thing is for certain: people with tinnitus have differences in different regions of their brain when compared to people without tinnitus. This is particularly true regarding the pathways of the central and peripheral nervous system and the limbic system, which is concerned with memory and emotions.

Slower Reaction Times

Research shows that those with tinnitus exhibit a slower reaction time.

It can be difficult to pay attention with a decreased reaction time, especially during a conversation. You may find yourself frequently getting lost in the conversation due to this, which can make conversation difficult in general. This can also make matters difficult while reading or studying for an exam.

Continuous Distraction

Let’s face it, tinnitus is a continuous distraction. With ringing or buzzing in the ear(s), it can be difficult to make out what others are saying. Some may focus so much on the sounds their tinnitus is causing that they have trouble focusing on any other noise. Fortunately, they can learn to tune out the tinnitus and focus on other noises.

Increased Risks of Anxiety and Depression

Tinnitus and a decrease in mental health have been linked together, particularly anxiety and depression. It is uncertain if those with tinnitus have an increase in anxiety and depression due to the changes in the brain that tinnitus causes or because of the mental/emotional hardship that tinnitus often triggers- or even a combination of the two.

While not everyone with tinnitus will suffer from such, these mental health disorders alone can make it difficult to focus. The ruminating thoughts and frequent worries a part of anxiety can make it hard to concentrate on anything else. Depression can also cause problems focusing as it can decrease motivation, cause fatigue, and negatively impact memory.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

It isn’t yet known if mild cognitive impairment and chronic tinnitus have a link. However, it is strongly suspected.

What we do know for sure, however, is that those suffering from tinnitus tend to have decreased levels of attention and memory. There also appears to be an increased risk of developing dementia in the future.

Are you or someone you know struggling from tinnitus? There are treatments available. TMS for tinnitus is known for being an effective form for treatment for sufferers.


Tinnitus is no easy condition to live with. As if the condition wasn’t already difficult enough, those with tinnitus have difficulty focusing. Science backs up why focusing is harder for these folks. In turn, this information can help us find ways to help people better function with tinnitus.

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