16 August 2019

Although tinnitus has affected many people for a long time, it’s only very recently that we’ve been able to learn more about these irritating noises in the ears. In particular, studies have been conducted to determine whether there’s a link between tinnitus and stress.

Pulsatile Tinnitus Due to Stress

This is a type of tinnitus perceived as a ringing in the ears, sea noises, or buzzing that often occurs in one of the following cases: after fifty years of age, after a psychological shock, or simply due to stress. While it’s not the stress that causes the tinnitus to appear, strictly speaking, it may indirectly contribute to its appearance: because stress influences the secretion of hormones by the body as well as blood circulation, it can lead to reduced oxygen intake in the inner ear. Tinnitus is also more common among stressed people than among those who aren’t stressed.

The major problem with tinnitus that occurs during periods of intense stress is that it’s not necessarily temporary. It can persist and become chronic, as sometimes happens after illness, mourning, separation, or – more generally – a traumatic event.

Stress as an Aggravating Factor in Tinnitus

More and more people who suffer from tinnitus report that it becomes louder and more disruptive when they’re going through periods of intense stress. And while stress helps us deal with complex and difficult situations, it can also do us a disservice when the stress reaction lasts for too long: when the body is unable to cope with its stress response, health problems, such as tinnitus, can occur and establish themselves.

The Stress Caused by the Tinnitus

While some people suffering from tinnitus hear it as unpleasant background noise, for others, this phantom sound is really perceived as disturbing and extremely worrisome. In the latter case, the tinnitus is accompanied by discomfort and fear that take on such proportions that the irritating sound is detected as an alarm signal by the brain, which triggers a stress reaction. This keeps the tinnitus going and can even make it worse. It then becomes hard to figure out how to put an end to the problem, since the stress and the tinnitus are fuelling each other.Among the people suffering from chronic and disruptive tinnitus, nearly half are also prone to mood disorders, anxiety, or depression.

Managing Stress to Reduce the Intensity of the Tinnitus

There’s no single method for fighting tinnitus. What we do know is that fighting stress is important for reducing the tension at the heart of the matter: you can practice relaxation techniques, yoga, biofeedback, sophrology, behavioural and cognitive therapy, visualization, at-home sound therapy, or arts and crafts. It’s up to each person to find the method that soothes them the most. 

There’s undoubtedly an obvious relationship between tinnitus and stress. This link can be a real vicious circle. In some cases, it’s the stress that creates the tinnitus, and the tinnitus itself that causes even more stress. The good news is that there’s often a long-term reduction in the tinnitus among those who adopt better lifestyle habits, and reducing stress is undeniably a part of that.