Can Stress Cause Tinnitus?

Stress Affects Your Tinnitus

Are you stressed from the ringing in your ears? Tinnitus is a sign from your body alerting you that something is off. This article will teach you how to manage your stress and help you take back control of your tinnitus.

Keep reading to learn about some of the best techniques for reducing tinnitus stress.

Relationship Between Stress & Tinnitus

Dr. Ben Thompson explains the relationship between tinnitus and stress in this video.

Stress is your body’s natural response to tinnitus. The auditory brain creates the perception of a ringing in the ears and communicates with the emotional brain. Your brain then sends a signal to your autonomic nervous system, which subconsciously puts your body into a state of high alert.

The autonomic nervous system’s job is to maintain homeostasis—that is, to preserve stability and balance in your body. When the autonomic nervous system signals stress, the body can in turn become stressed. This is merely a natural way for the autonomic nervous system to protect the body, as it sends signals alerting the body to some unknown aspect in the environment—in this case, ringing in the ears. Thus, if you learn more about the causes of tinnitus, in turn, the autonomic nervous system will exhibit a reduced response, as the sensation is no longer so unknown.

"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
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Some symptoms of tinnitus stress include headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of motivation, lack of concentration, or even just a general feeling that things are “off.”

There’s a direct relationship between the auditory system and the emotional brain. When the auditory system receives a signal of tinnitus, the emotional brain then becomes aware of that signal. When the emotional brain begins to wonder, “What is that sound? I’m scared of that, I don’t know what that means,” this in turn further amplifies the auditory brain and creates what’s called a feedback loop, where the tinnitus and the emotional response to it are both increased and grow more and more intense together.

Feedback Loop In the Auditory System

Many of my patients who work with me via telehealth at first wonder why they have ringing in their ears. After our sessions, they learn how to reduce stress and calm down their autonomic nervous system simply because they now understand their tinnitus better. Thus, it’s important to learn about what tinnitus is: specifically, why it’s in your system, what you can do about it, and how you can manage and live with it.

We’re not trying to completely cure tinnitus, because for most people there is no direct cure. However, we can still improve our quality of life by further understanding our tinnitus.

The path is very similar to that of dealing with chronic pain. For patients who do have chronic pain, there are significant ways to improve quality of life, and thus create a reduction in the pain itself. The goal is not to completely remove the pain, but merely to learn how to reduce it.

Psychology Of Tinnitus

There’s a part of each of our minds that loves negative thinking—a part of the mind that is comfortable with and tolerant of the presence of tinnitus. There’s also another part of our minds that takes action and has a positive outlook. This part of our mind might have the inspiration to read this article, or the motivation to see a therapist, or the belief to do something to improve tinnitus.

Belief is the driving force and is something that we must amplify and fully embrace in order to make significant gains in improving tinnitus. Anything that gets us in our body and out of our mind is going to have a big benefit on our tinnitus and our stress from it. This can take the form of simple actions, like walking around the neighborhood, going for a run or bike ride, or swimming. These forms of simple aerobic exercise are proven methods to improve sleep and stress, including stress associated with tinnitus.

Practices To Help Relax Tinnitus

I also want to mention mind-body practices. This could involve meditation, yoga, guided breathing, anything that really relaxes us.

Taking part in mind-body practices can also help you significantly tap into your emotional center and get you away from the kinds of negative thinking that can make stress, anxiety, and depression significantly worse. These practices include guided meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or anything else that relaxes you. Typically, these practices are done in the morning or evening. 

I’ve had many patients talk to me about the relationship between stress and tinnitus, and what they often find is that during periods of increased stress, their tinnitus is often perceived as being louder. In a way, tinnitus is a health-o-meter and can make us aware of the things in our life that aren’t going so well and might need attention. Oftentimes, this means slowing down, going inward, and focusing on our health. Some of the practices mentioned, like aerobic exercise or mind-body techniques, were designed and have been tested for thousands of years as proven methods to cultivate more inner peace. If you can relax into any sources of stress—and by extension, your tinnitus—this will help significantly and oftentimes will reduce the loudness of the ringing as well.

Next Step: Take The Tinnitus Quiz

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