You first hear 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 hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got 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 might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have trouble controlling them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this association, any episode 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 change to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- It can be challenging to disregard your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
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. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s especially hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response a week ago. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
This list is not complete. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
In general, 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 identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. Give us a call so we can help.