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Tinnitus, stress and anxiety

Tinnitus can be the sound of stress and anxiety

Tinnitus is an auditory disorder that manifests itself in intermittent sounds like ringing in the ears. For many people, this condition can be triggered by stress and anxiety. At the same time, tinnitus can make people feel even more stressed and anxious. Let's find out more about the relationship between the appearance of tinnitus and the stress factor.

Can stress and anxiety cause tinnitus?

Did you know that high-stress and anxiety situations can be a cause of tinnitus? Unfortunately, anxiety and stress have a significant impact on the entire body,  especially on our nervous system (or brains). Everyday life imposes many stresses. As stress levels increase, so does the likelihood of repercussions on the hearing system. This is why it is not uncommon to observe an increase in cases of stress-induced tinnitus.

When stress and anxiety accumulate and become more intense, some signs of tinnitus can be noticed, such as a constant ringing in the ears or a whistling, even when there is no external source to emit the sound: this is what it is called stress-related tinnitus.

Tinnitus is known to be potentially triggered by anxiety and stress, but these factors can also make your existing tinnitus worse. For some people, tinnitus acts as a ‘barometer’ of stress, often worsening during difficult times. Mild tinnitus may get worse during times of high stress or anxiety, as these can lead to issues such as difficulty concentrating or relaxing. When an individual with tinnitus is in a relaxing psychophysical situation, they tend to perceive tinnitus less.

Pulsatile tinnitus is a rhythmic thumping, whooshing or pulsing in the ear. It’s a rare form of tinnitus that tends to be synced to your heartbeat and can seem as if you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears. Like other forms of tinnitus, stress and anxiety can indirectly contribute to its appearance or make it worse.

It is easier for stress and anxiety to become a pulsatile tinnitus factor, as this specific type of tinnitus reveals itself, especially, when we try to sleep, one of the moments of the day in which stress and anxiety can be stronger.  Pulsatile tinnitus should be followed by a physician to rule out any underlying medical condition.

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If you experience tinnitus, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or hearing instrument specialist about how you can best manage the symptoms.

Why does stress cause tinnitus?

The causes of tinnitus are not yet fully understood. Doctors and researchers from all over the world are investigating this disorder. However, in the case of stress-induced tinnitus, a possible chemical factor that triggers tinnitus under stressful conditions has been identified: the increase in glutamate.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter, an element of the nervous system that connects neurons. When its production increases excessively, for example, in high emotional or physical stress, neurons become overloaded, as they receive too many excitatory signals. As a result, damage can be found in some areas of the brain, including the acoustic nerve, aiding the correct transmission of sounds. In this case, stress-induced tinnitus can develop.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to live with tinnitus: the constant ringing in the ears limits concentration, making conversations difficult and often preventing you from sleeping peacefully. It contributes to creating further stress, which increases the production of glutamate and increases tinnitus: a vicious circle is created from which it is difficult to get out.

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How to treat tinnitus caused by stress and anxiety

In most cases, stress-induced tinnitus disappears on its own once you destress, but in some cases, it can become chronic. That's why it's important to learn how to counteract tinnitus, or rather, how to live with it so that this ringing in the ears doesn't damage our daily lives. Healthcare professionals can assist in relieving stress and anxiety, as many times there are psychological factors at play and counseling is needed.

Currently, there is no specific cure for stress-induced tinnitus, but there are strategies that help coping with it, like trying to reduce anxiety and stress to help bring glutamate production back to normal levels. This is obviously not easy, given that tinnitus contributes to increased stress and discomfort because it prevents you from sleeping, concentrating and relaxing.

However, before embarking on a psychological journey aimed at functional management of anxiety, consider visiting a specialist and getting a hearing check to rule out other causes of your tinnitus. Going to a specialist and a Miracle-Ear center for a hearing check can be the first step for better listening.

Consider the following therapies to help alleviate the effects of tinnitus and help you manage your stress-induced tinnitus:

There are sound enrichment devices for sale that help make it possible to reduce the perception of tinnitus by exposing you to melodies and sounds of your choosing. These devices promote relaxation and help reduce the volume of your tinnitus.

TRT treatment: Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) is a conscious and subconscious tinnitus management and treatment technique. TRT requires close collaboration with hearing care professionals and aims to teach the brain to ignore the ringing in the ear caused by tinnitus. It is based on the concept of sound habituation through acoustic stimulation. TRT aims to modify the auditory perception by the brain with the scope of ignoring the ringing in the ear caused by tinnitus by confusing it with other noises.

There are also natural remedies that can potentially help you live better with stress-induced tinnitus, including:

  • Magnesium-rich foods: Magnesium is a substance capable of inhibiting glutamate, proven to be very effective in treating tinnitus, reducing "excitotoxicity."
  • Physical activity, yoga, meditation, and long walks are excellent solutions to reduce the perception of stress tinnitus and regain lost serenity.
  • Bach flowers are also useful because they help to mitigate negative emotions and related disorders, such as stress.
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Another treatment option is a hearing aid for tinnitus. These hearing aids produce a sound that masks the sound of tinnitus. Discover Miracle-Ear product range of hearing aids and get advice on the best ones for you according to your specific needs!

Does stress-related tinnitus go away?

In most cases, tinnitus caused by stress and anxiety tends to disappear once we get out of a stressful moment. According to a study published in Nature, for about 80 percent of people, their tinnitus subsides or is no longer as noticeable once the stressful event has passed.

However, in some cases, there is the possibility that stress-induced tinnitus can become chronic. If this occurs, it's important to learn how to counteract tinnitus or cope with it with the techniques mentioned above.

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