You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day 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? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals 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 everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start 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 general anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then move to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Whether constant or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to ignore. 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 grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, naturally, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more severe. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you’re not sleeping. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either case, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
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:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- 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 a method that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.