Does Stress Make Tinnitus Worse?

The past several months have been some of the most stressful times many people can remember, especially with concerns about COVID-19. Each individual responds to that stress differently. Some people may live with it, while others find it difficult to cope.

For those with tinnitus, or constant ringing in the ears, there is a strong connection to stress. The human body can respond to stress in physical ways by tensing muscles, increasing breathing rate, and by producing chemicals consistent with a “fight or flight” response. The response to tinnitus and certain external sounds may also cause this same response. There are many ways to manage stress, and many of these techniques are things you can do at home.

Reducing Stressors

  • List all the areas in your life where there is conflict, excessive worry, uncertainty, or other stress. Concentrate on fresh ways of resolving these issues.
  • Delegate some of your duties to others and/or reduce your workload.
  • Seek the help of a relevant professional. If tinnitus is an issue, see an audiologist.
  • Communicate how you feel with a close friend, family member or counselor.
  • Exercise regularly to keep yourself healthy, happy, active and relaxed. This can also change chemicals in your body produced in response to stress, which can improve sleep.
  • Mute or turn off your phone when you want to relax. Take a break from social media, newsfeeds or other possible triggers for increasing stress.
  • Take a relaxing bath or shower to relieve tension.
  • Stretch periodically, especially if you sit for hours at a time.
  • Educate your family or friends/co-workers about tinnitus. Tell them about conditions and settings that are difficult for you and ask them for support.
  • Listen to music with 60 beats per minute to decrease stress. You can find songs in this category by searching online for “music, 60 beats per minute.”
  • Go outside. Being outside, taking a walk, going for a bike ride, etc., can help relax you.
  • Manage your time well. Inefficient use of time can be a significant source of stress, and also can contribute to tinnitus.
  • Other methods of stress reduction that are proven to work include meditation, yoga, massage, guided imagery and biofeedback.

Is there anything else you can do for tinnitus?

Relaxation and stress relief may help reduce tinnitus, but there is currently no scientifically-validated cure for the problem. In addition to the tips above, if your tinnitus has gotten worse during the pandemic, or it’s more bothersome than usual, there are treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives. 

The first step toward effectively managing tinnitus should be to find an audiologist who specializes in the condition.  At Associated Audiologists, we offer a comprehensive tinnitus management program to assist in diagnosing and managing care for individuals who have tinnitus.  Often the best place to start is scheduling a diagnostic hearing evaluation to better understand and diagnose what is happening with your ears and auditory system.

The program’s services are provided by Susan Smittkamp, Au.D., Ph.D., tinnitus specialist. Dr. Smittkamp uses the most sophisticated technology available in the greater Kansas City area to diagnose and manage tinnitus.

For many patients with tinnitus, the latest digital hearing aids may be particularly useful in managing tinnitus.  Some hearing aids include supplemental sound generator functionality (white noise or other sounds, such as chimes, played directly into the ear) that helps reduce the perception of tinnitus.

This makes it more difficult to consciously perceive tinnitus and helps the brain focus on outside, ambient noises. The impact of hearing aids is particularly strong for patients who have hearing loss in the same frequency range as their tinnitus.

Hearing aids also help by augmenting the external volume of activities such as a conversation, watching television or talking on the phone, above the perceived volume of tinnitus. As a result, these individuals may feel less personal frustration and social isolation.

In some cases, hearing aids work best as part of a structured tinnitus management plan.

In other cases, an alternative option may be recommended. Associated Audiologists also offers a number of FDA-cleared tools for tinnitus management.

To learn more about tinnitus, download our free e-book.

Call 913-403-0018 to schedule an appointment with our tinnitus specialist.