The Tinnitus & Stress Link

Paul Harrison

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Currently, tinnitus affects one in eight adults in the UK and the severity of this condition depends somewhat on the person.  While some state their tinnitus doesn’t cause them too many problems in their daily lives – others say that their tinnitus is extremely distressing.  Affecting routine, sleep and communication.  This severity is generally caused by the amount of stress that the person is under.  The higher the level of stress, the more acute the tinnitus seems to be.  Here we discuss the theories behind this link and how we can seek change and relief.

Back to basics – what is stress?

We will all experience stress in different parts of our lives and it will generally show its ugly self when we are not balanced.  When demands of life are not matched by our own resources.  On the other hand, stress can also manifest when you have little to do or to occupy yourself with.

Small levels of stress aren’t considered to be detrimental to your health and well-being.  A certain amount of this can be a trigger to help you focus on and maintain a more determined mindset.  Stress hormones are released, and this helps our bodies to attain certain goals and be proactive in tackling a challenging situation.  However, in this blog we are focusing on stress from a long-term perspective and how it can ultimately bring difficulties to our body and mind.

So, why is tinnitus & stress linked?

People either act calm and neutral or react negatively when faced with tinnitus.  It usually depends on how the specific person views the condition.  Let me explain, for people who are stressed with their tinnitus symptoms are those who generally perceive it as hopeless and restricting.  They are also the individuals who are unable to believe that they will ever find relief, they are misunderstood, and feel people don’t ‘get’ this invisible condition.  Unfortunately, people fear or don’t understand what they can’t see.  Resentment for the condition grows and a deep feeling of wanting to escape the episodes they are experiencing increases over time.  These thoughts continue to spiral and can cause considerable impact on wellbeing.

However, it is important to know that there is no medical confirmation that stress causes tinnitus – but it is an emotional factor.  What is commonly known, is that the condition can start at points of your life with high amounts of stress or after a period of stress.  Tinnitus also worsens with stress and becomes quite a heavy burden to carry.  A vicious cycle – where each stress impacts the other.

Gain from understanding

If you try to see that the link between tinnitus and stress is solely down to taking into account, the role of attention – you can see the link more clearly.  In short, our role of attention is what we choose to focus on in our environment.  What we consciously draw attention to or what we don’t and decide to block out.  We simply get used to it in the background.  We habituate.

When you are experiencing high levels of stress you lose the ability to filter sounds or distractions out.  You become more sensitive to it and it translates into a form of threat.  This is why tinnitus is heavily linked to stress – if you label this condition as stressful then you will sadly focus on it.  You can’t habituate the same.  In result, tinnitus seems to be both louder and overwhelming.  Thus, explaining why tinnitus could jump-start or worsen when you are experiencing high levels of stress.

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Yoga is a well known method to reduce stress which reduces tinnitus

Instigate change

Making simple changes in your everyday routine can be the game-changer you need to manage your tinnitus and stress levels better.  In simple terms, turn your focus on to something more interesting and distracting.  To find a more positive perspective to tinnitus and to relieve its symptoms, here are a few ideas that are worth implementing in your life:

  1. Have moments of quiet and reflective time to yourself.
  2. Partake in a new activity and hobby.
  3. Socialise more regularly.
  4. Exercise
  5. Practice mindfulness and/or yoga.
  6. Find comfort in the support of friends and family.
  7. Regularly visit a counsellor or therapist. A happy mind promotes a happy body and life.
  8. Try and reduce the challenges in your life that cause you stress and anxiety.
  9. Listen to music, audiobooks and podcasts to distract yourself from the symptoms of tinnitus.
  10. Contact your audiologist who could recommend various types of medication that can help aid relief.
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Author Bio
This article was written by our friend, Paul Harrison, BSHAA council member & founder of Hearing Aid UK.

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