HEARING TIPS

Woman can't sleep at night because she's suffering from tinnitus and anxiety

You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.

Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?

Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.

An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Definitely!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?

There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:

  • Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
  • Usually, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.

How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?

Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:

  • The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult to overlook. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to tune out.
  • The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.

When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle continues. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:

  • Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
  • Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is important (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased anxiety response.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.

Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:

  • Some recreational drugs
  • Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
  • Lack of nutrition
  • Stimulant usage (including caffeine)

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.

How to fix your anxiety-caused tinnitus?

When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic choices at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that might work in either case:

Treating anxiety

Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
  • Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.

Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better

You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. Contact us so we can help.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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