You first hear the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: a beating or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have trouble controlling them. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused 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 falling asleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more severe. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Poor work performance: 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 eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Greater 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: 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 symptoms.
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is important (mostly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s not so good when you’re working on an assignment for work. oftentimes, the relationship between the two is not very clear. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also cause anxiety:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
You have two general options to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
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 awake at night. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.