A Link between Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Sleep Issues

A Link between Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Sleep Issues

Peter Lucier, HIS

Millions of Americans have tinnitus, an annoying ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. This sound can make it hard to concentrate, follow conversations, or enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon. Not only is this sound irritating, tinnitus is linked to anxiety and even sleep issues.

What is Tinnitus?

The American Tinnitus Association reports that approximately 15% of Americans have tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus will be very infrequent, and they only experience tinnitus every few days or even weeks. For others, tinnitus can be a constant source of discomfort and annoyance.

Tinnitus is a phantom sound that you will sometimes hear. You’re the only one who can hear this sound. Tinnitus is more obvious when you’re in a quiet place, and the sound of tinnitus can fill the silence. The experience of tinnitus is different for everyone, and it’s been described as sounding like:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Whistling
  • Hissing
  • Squealing

You may hear tinnitus when you’re sitting in the quiet of your living room, or when you’re in bed at night. You may also feel as though your ear is plugged, or the sounds in your ear are muffled.

Understanding the Cause of Tinnitus

Researchers don’t know exactly where this phantom sound comes from. What they do know is that tinnitus is linked to damaged cells in your ears. This is the same cell damage that can cause hearing loss. When the cells in your inner ear are damaged or die, you can experience tinnitus and hearing loss.

Researchers believe that when the cells in your inner ear are damaged, they still sometimes send electrical impulses to the brain. The cells aren’t picking up on any real sounds in the environment, but they are firing signals to the brain. This causes you to “hear” sounds in your brain, even though there aren’t any noises around you.

Cell damage in the ear that’s linked to tinnitus can be caused by:

  • Age related hearing loss
  • Noise induced hearing loss
  • A buildup of earwax in the ear canal
  • A head, neck, or ear injury
  • An ear or sinus infection that leads to a buildup of fluid in the ear

Tinnitus and Anxiety

Tinnitus doesn’t just affect your ears. Tinnitus is closely linked to your mood. It can make you feel more stressed, annoyed, impatient, and even anxious. Experiencing tinnitus can be very frustrating. Whenever you’re in a quiet room, tinnitus is there ringing in in your ears and making it hard to think.

Tinnitus can make you feel extremely anxious. You’ll focus more on your tinnitus, and the anxious thoughts around tinnitus will make you notice it even more. This heightened experience of tinnitus will make you even more anxious! The negative cycle will make your tinnitus and your anxiety harder to manage. It will start to affect your overall mood, your mental health, and your sleep.

Tinnitus and Sleep Issues

When you have frequent or constant tinnitus, it can be very hard to get to sleep at night. As soon as you lay down in the quiet of your room, your anxious thoughts around tinnitus make you feel stressed, and make your tinnitus even more noticeable. You may struggle to fall asleep at night, experiencing racing thoughts, stress, and insomnia.

Treating Tinnitus

When it comes to managing anxiety and sleep issues, start by treating tinnitus! When you learn to manage your tinnitus, you can begin to reduce your anxiety, reduce your experience of tinnitus, and start sleeping better.

One of the most common treatments for tinnitus is sound therapy. Modern hearing aids have built-in sound therapy programs to bring you relief from your experience of tinnitus. Sound therapy is all about helping fade tinnitus sounds into the background. The program can play white noise, a fan noise, nature sounds, or even your own music. A hearing health specialist will calibrate your sound therapy program to match your exact experience of tinnitus. Activating the program will help your tinnitus fade into the background and bring relief.

To find out more about treating tinnitus and reducing anxiety and sleep issues, contact us today. Together we’ll learn more about your tinnitus and find the right treatment options for you.