Hearing Health Blog

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

You first notice the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.

Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.

Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?

Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can appear.

For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty controlling them. Tinnitus is only one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?

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

  • You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
  • Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?

So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
  • The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
  • The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.

When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:

  • Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
  • Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for example.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.

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

  • Poor nutrition
  • Some recreational drugs
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
  • Use of stimulants (including caffeine)

This list is not exhaustive. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.

How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

You have two basic options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. In either situation, here’s how that may work:

Treating anxiety

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

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:

  • 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 strategy.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.

Dealing with your tinnitus could help you sleep better

As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.

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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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