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Hearing loss and tinnitus affect millions of Americans. Have you noticed that it’s been harder to follow conversations? Maybe you’re experiencing a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears. We often think hearing loss isn’t a big deal, or that it won’t affect our lives. However, there’s a clear link between tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep issues.
Tinnitus is an annoying sound in your ears that’s often heard when you’re in a quiet place. For example, tinnitus will be more noticeable when you’re quietly reading, or when you’re lying in bed at night. Only you can hear your tinnitus. Tinnitus is different for everyone, and it could be a ringing, squealing, humming, hissing, buzzing, or whistling sound. Tinnitus is usually a high-pitched sound, but some people can experience tinnitus at a lower pitch.
Tinnitus can be infrequent. You may only notice tinnitus once a month, or several times in a week. Tinnitus can also be a constant, irritating sound. You may notice tinnitus all the time, or multiple times every day. According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus affects roughly 15% of Americans.
What are the Causes of Tinnitus?
There isn’t one single cause of tinnitus, and doctors aren’t sure exactly what makes you hear that ringing or buzzing sound. Tinnitus is associated with damage to the cells in the ear, the same damage that leads to hearing loss. That’s why tinnitus and hearing loss often occur together. When you have tinnitus, the damaged cells in your ear may still send signals to the brain, even though there aren’t and sounds in your environment. Tinnitus can be caused by:
- Excessive earwax in the ear canal
- Hearing loss
- Noise exposure that damages the cells in the ear
- An ear infection, or fluid in the ear
- A head or ear injury
Living with permanent tinnitus can affect your overall mood. You’ll have a hard time focusing on tasks, and you can feel more stressed, anxious, or irritable.
Tinnitus is Linked to Anxiety
Tinnitus often goes hand in hand with stress and anxiety. This phantom sound can be extremely frustrating. Tinnitus makes it hard to get your work done, have a quiet conversation with a loved one, or get a good night’s sleep.
Tinnitus and anxiety are part of a negative cycle. When you experience tinnitus, your anxiety will be higher. As you become more anxious and stressed your tinnitus will seem stronger. This can make you even more anxious and upset! When you’re feeling anxious it’s more difficult to get through your workday, maintain good relationships with your family, and fall asleep at night.
Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Sleep Issues
Frequent tinnitus and high levels of anxiety lead to sleep issues, and you’ll have a lot more trouble falling asleep at night. When you’re under a lot of stress your body can’t relax. You’ll experience a faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, and racing or scattered thoughts. It can seem impossible to calm your mind enough to fall asleep at night.
Sleep issues can aggravate both tinnitus and anxiety. Poor sleep leads to more fatigue and anxiety, making your experience of tinnitus even worse.
How to Treat Tinnitus
Tinnitus is treatable! You don’t have to live with high levels of anxiety or sacrifice your sleep. Treating tinnitus can reduce your anxiety and help you fall asleep at night. The most common tinnitus treatment is sound therapy. Have you noticed that playing music or turning on the fan can make your tinnitus disappear? Sound therapy works by masking your tinnitus so it can fade into the background. You’ll be able to concentrate, enjoy conversations, and fall asleep easily without hearing your tinnitus.
Modern hearing aids have tinnitus therapy programs that will help you manage tinnitus. These programs are calibrated to match your tinnitus and make it less noticeable. You can choose between white noise, nature sounds, or your own music. Your hearing aids will play these sounds and mask your tinnitus.
Tinnitus therapy programs are designed to help you manage your tinnitus. Tinnitus can’t be cured, but by managing the symptoms you can enjoy life without worrying about that ringing or buzzing sound. Treating tinnitus will also reduce your anxiety and can resolve your sleep issues.