You first notice 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 notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination 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 acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? 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 more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
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:
- It can be challenging to disregard 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 increases.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- Most people 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 obvious.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more substantial. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, the connection between the two isn’t obvious. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two general options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
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: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.