Tinnitus is a hearing-related problem in which a person experiences sounds in one or both ears that aren’t actual external sounds that can be heard by others. While those sounds frequently are characterized as “ringing” or “buzzing” in the ears, people with tinnitus may experience other noises like roaring, hissing, humming, clicking, or whooshing sounds.
Anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by frequent or continual, overwhelming fear that goes beyond normal worry and interferes with a person’s daily activities. Tinnitus and anxiety are conditions that often go hand in hand.
Can Anxiety Cause Tinnitus?
Many people with anxiety develop tinnitus. However, researchers aren’t yet clear about the relationship when a patient appears to have tinnitus caused by anxiety.
Anxiety activates the so-called fight or flight system and the related physiological changes (increased blood flow, elevated body heat, etc.) may affect the inner ear and trigger tinnitus.
But while that explanation of tinnitus due to anxiety makes sense with short-term spikes in both conditions, it doesn’t account for long-term tinnitus. Experts suspect that anxiety also can cause patients to develop a mindset that makes them more susceptible to developing tinnitus.
Can Tinnitus Cause Anxiety?
Researchers are still trying to understand the relationship between tinnitus and anxiety. What’s clear, however, is that experiencing tinnitus can be stressful. Consequently, it makes sense that tinnitus can cause or worsen anxiety. And unfortunately, the two conditions can work cyclically to exacerbate one another.
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How to Overcome Tinnitus & Anxiety
If you have both anxiety and tinnitus, there are steps you can take to manage the two conditions. Here are tips on how to overcome anxiety and tinnitus:
- Avoid silence. The absence of background noise can make tinnitus more noticeable, and as a result, increase your stress level. Playing soft music can help mask tinnitus.
- Develop healthy eating/sleeping/exercise habits. Poor physical health makes other conditions like tinnitus and anxiety worse. Eating a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep and exercise can make managing your conditions easier.
- Assess your social media use. Spending time on social media can help you connect with others. It can also elevate your stress level and your anxiety. Be sure you understand how your social media time is affecting you and modify your habits if appropriate.
- Rule out or address underlying causes of tinnitus. In some cases, tinnitus is caused by a problem like a structural issue in the ear. Your doctor can prescribe imaging tests like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan to determine if there’s a physical problem that can be addressed to eliminate or minimize your tinnitus.
- Treat your tinnitus. In many people, tinnitus can’t be completely cured. But treatments can reduce the severity of tinnitus symptoms. They include medications, relaxation techniques, hearing aids (if tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss), masking devices that play a pleasant sound that makes tinnitus less noticeable, and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) that teaches the brain to filter out the tinnitus noise. In cases where a problem with the temporomandibular joint is suspected as the cause of tinnitus, dental procedures may provide relief.
Learn More About Tinnitus from Baptist Health
Next Steps and Useful Resources