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  • Writer's pictureWidex Emirates Hearing Care

The Link Between Tinnitus and Stress: What You Can Do About It

tinnitus and stress

Tinnitus can sometimes be the ‘barometer’ of stress. Emotional stress is often associated with tinnitus symptoms. It can be a factor to the beginning or deterioration of tinnitus.

The presence of stress symptoms is shown in most patients suffering from tinnitus, especially in the exhaustion phases. It is directly linked to tinnitus annoyance.

On this page:

  1. What is tinnitus?

  2. What is stress?

  3. What is the relationship between tinnitus and stress?

  4. How to manage tinnitus and stress?

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is considered a common auditory disorder that affects many people. It is when you hear distracting and repetitive sounds, such as humming, ringing, or clicking in the ears.

It is generally caused by auditory system damages. However, the role of psychological and emotional factors provoking and maintaining annoyance has been proven in many studies. Few of the causes of tinnitus include:

  • Damage caused to the inner or middle ear

  • Issues with the auditory nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain

  • Issues with parts of the brain processing sound

  • Brain tumors

  • Earwax buildup

  • Sinus infections

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Noise-induced hearing loss

  • Thyroid imbalance

  • Ototoxic medications like antibiotics or big amounts of aspirin

Chronic tinnitus, which is defined as the presence of tinnitus for more than 3 months, is more present among seniors than young adults. However, it can occur at any age. The type of tinnitus and the extent of its symptoms vary from one person to another.

Tinnitus is loud enough to affect the:

  • Quality of life

  • Sleeping/ insomnia

  • Work impairment

  • Psychiatric distress

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Concentration

  • Relationship with others

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Mood disorders

What is stress?

Stress is a result of many physical and psychological conditions that affect the normal functioning of the body. It is simply the feeling of being under extreme pressure. It is linked to many situations that are difficult to control or manage. These situations are related to social, economic, physical, or emotional demands.

Stress can lead to many symptoms, including:

  • Sweating

  • Fast heartbeats

  • Disrupted sleep

  • Loss of appetite

  • Feeling worried, anxious and tense

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Nausea

  • Churning stomach

  • Needing toilet

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Muscle pain or tension

Sometimes stress can be helpful. The release of stress hormones can help the body take positive action, such as tackling difficult moments or running away from certain situations. In the short term, it can help you function better. In the long term, it can be very uncomfortable for the body and mind.

Stress affects the auditory system. Stress factors and hormones also influence the endocrine system. The interactions of these systems induce tinnitus.

Stress is a cause of tinnitus and its development. We often see in the clinic when the patient is describing their condition that tinnitus gets worse after stressful situations. Emotional stress worsens pre-existing tinnitus. It is identified as a major factor in tinnitus severity.

Mood disorders cause the dysfunction of neurotransmitters, which if treated, can help decrease the intrusiveness of tinnitus with time.

What is the relationship between tinnitus and stress?

Increase in stress levels lead to repercussions on the hearing system. Stress tinnitus plays a huge factor between the appearance of stress factor and tinnitus. The way people ordinarily respond to tinnitus fluctuates between different people. For some, it is considered the biggest stress in life, whilst others look at it in a very neutral and calm way. This is because people view tinnitus differently.

People who stress about tinnitus worry that they will never get peace and wish they can escape it. They might show signs of hopelessness and loss of enjoyment. They also report that tinnitus becomes louder and a lot more disruptive when they are going through phases of intense stress. Here where tinnitus becomes hard to manage, since stress and tinnitus are fueling each other.

How to manage tinnitus and stress?

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If you have tinnitus, stress can force you to:

  • Be more aware of it

  • Experience it more, especially when it comes and goes

If you usually have a high level of stress, you are certainly more likely to be bothered by tinnitus. Usually people react to the ringing of the ears and all the different sounds they might experience in two different ways. Some try to ignore it and learn how to live with it. Others consider it a threat. Their breathing and heart beats increase. They suffer from restlessness and sleeplessness and their condition turns into depression and anxiety in the long term.

The positive thing is that you can ask for help! There are many methods that can help in reducing stress and managing tinnitus. You have to understand that tinnitus is not only an auditory condition. This point is very important in the treatment process.

Of all the negative effects that tinnitus leads to from anxiety to fear and sadness, feeling powerless is the worst. It is a must to figure out where the power lies and how to exert it to achieve results.

  • You can share your experience with others who are also suffering the same symptoms. Joining a tinnitus support group is an option.

  • You can wear hearing aids. It reduces stress because the person can hear better. Once the hearing improves:

  1. they can feel more empowered to catch up with their loved ones

  2. they can participate in many social activities and gatherings

  3. they become more sociable and outgoing

  4. they have more hope and happiness in what they are doing

  • You can listen to soft music. This will help to distract yourself from tinnitus. Seeking different tinnitus apps and relaxers can help because they offer relaxing sounds.

  • Try daily exercise. This can help reduce stress. Physical activity, meditation, yoga and long walks regain lost serenity and minimize stress.

  • Evaluate your diet. Incorporating healthy eating habits, full of vitamins and minerals and low in caffeine and salt, help in diminishing stress and tinnitus.

  • Counseling helps in talking about your condition and finding solutions. It can relieve your fears and reduce your anxiety levels. It is best recommended to go for medical counseling, which is delivered by a specialist who understands tinnitus. Seek guidance from a counselor, medical doctor, psychologist or any other mental health professional,

  • Go after sound therapy. Listening to white noises and calming noises makes tinnitus less frustrating because these noises mask the sound of tinnitus. Nowadays, smartphone apps create customized sounds palettes, which counteract tinnitus noises.

  • Work with your audiologist. You can learn all the facts about tinnitus and its symptoms. This will help you understand the outcome of your tinnitus and how to respond to it.

  • Sleep well. A good night’s sleep reduces tinnitus and its associated stress.

  1. Cut down on caffeine

  2. Stick to a set and specific bedtime

  3. Avoid screen time during the night

  • Use hearing protection. A pair of custom-made plugs minimizes the risk of hearing loss, which is sometimes associated with tinnitus. It will also lower the risk of tinnitus.

Tinnitus can worsen with high levels of stress as it is always associated with stress and emotional strain. It can be a burden! The better you are able to manage stress, the better you will be able to manage tinnitus.


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