A Link between Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Sleep Issues

In Tinnitus by Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

Roselynn Gamboa Young, Au.D., CCC-A

Do you have tinnitus? This invasive sound is a buzzing or ringing noise that only you can hear. An estimated 50 million Americans have tinnitus, and deal with these phantom sounds. Did you know that there is a link between tinnitus, anxiety and sleep issues? When you have frequent tinnitus, you’re more likely to have high anxiety, and have a hard time sleeping at night. 

What Is Tinnitus?

The American Tinnitus Association reports that around 15% of Americans have experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives. Tinnitus can be in one or both ears. For some, tinnitus is infrequent, and they may only hear tinnitus occasionally. For others, tinnitus is a constant sound that disrupts their life. Tinnitus can sound very different to different people. Common tinnitus sounds include:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing
  • Whistling
  • Whooshing
  • Roaring
  • Static
  • Pulsing

Tinnitus can be high or low pitched, loud or soft. You may hear it all the time, including during conversations or when there are other sounds in your environment. Alternatively, you may only hear tinnitus when everything around you is very quiet. This could include when you’re concentrating on a task at work, when you’re trying to relax in the evening, or when you go to bed at night.

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is often caused by damage to the cells in your inner ear. These are the same cells that translate sound waves into electrical signals that your brain can understand. When these cells are damaged, you’ll experience hearing loss, and you may also experience tinnitus. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but when these cells are damaged, you may hear phantom sounds that aren’t in your environment.

Tinnitus is Linked to Anxiety

If you’ve ever experienced tinnitus, you have probably also felt a rising feeling of stress or anxiety. Tinnitus sounds can be frustrating, and lead to irritation and annoyance. When tinnitus sounds make it difficult to have a conversation with your loved ones, or make it hard to focus on your work, you may feel a lot more stressed.

This rising anxiety makes you even more aware of your tinnitus. And as you pay more attention to your tinnitus the sounds will seem even louder, and you’ll start feeling even more anxious! Tinnitus and stress are part of a cycle that slowly increases both your tinnitus and stress.

Tinnitus is Linked to Sleep Issues

Tinnitus is closely associated with poor sleep and sleep issues. Tinnitus is most noticeable when there aren’t any external sounds in your environment. Your bedroom at night is usually very quiet, and tinnitus is often very noticeable when you go to bed or when you wake up in the night. Tinnitus can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, and you may lay awake just listening to your tinnitus and wishing it would stop. Anxiety is also linked to sleep issues. When you have anxious or racing thoughts at night, you’ll struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Poor sleep can also make tinnitus and anxiety worse! If you aren’t sleeping enough, your tinnitus will also be more noticeable and more irritating. Poor sleep also makes it more difficult to cope with anxiety, irritation, and frustration.

How Treating Tinnitus Can Reduce Anxiety and Sleep Issues

Treating tinnitus is one of the best ways you can reduce tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep issues. One of the most common tinnitus treatments is sound therapy. This works by playing sounds that mask your tinnitus, so that these sounds fade into the background and you won’t notice them.

Many of our most popular hearing aids include tinnitus therapy programs. These programs can be set to match your exact tinnitus, matching the pitch and volume of your tinnitus. You can choose the kind of sound you want to hear, whether white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, or even your own music. By turning on the tinnitus therapy program, you can manage your tinnitus, reduce anxiety, and improve your sleep!

Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive hearing health services.