Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Woman can't sleep at night because she's suffering from tinnitus and anxiety

You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.

Can anxiety cause tinnitus?

Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.

An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Certainly!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:

  • You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
  • Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make getting to sleep a bit tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.

How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?

Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:

  • Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
  • It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
  • The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:

  • Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
  • Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Poor work results: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
  • Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
  • Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to a heightened anxiety response.

Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
  • Some recreational drugs

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.

How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either case:

Addressing anxiety

Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:

  • Medication: Medications may be used, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.

You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus

You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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