Can Anxiety Cause Ear Ringing?

Ear ringing, also known as tinnitus, is a common issue that can influence your health and life.

Although anxiety and tinnitus are considered two separate issues, they can often be linked, and sometimes, treating your anxiety may help alleviate your tinnitus. 

Can Anxiety Cause Ear Ringing?

If you experience ringing in your ears alongside symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks and overstimulation, the two may be connected. Stick with us as we take a closer look at the links between anxiety and tinnitus. 

What Is Tinnitus? 

Tinnitus (sometimes just called ear ringing), is a condition that causes you to hear noises that do not come from an external source, such as ringing.

This occurs in either one or both of your ears. Tinnitus is usually not a symptom of anything serious, and in most cases, it resolves by itself. 

Tinnitus is often described as a type of ringing, buzzing or roaring noise, but you may also hear whistling or chirping. 

Tinnitus symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, it can have a significant impact on your daily life. 

Can Tinnitus Go Away? 

In many cases tinnitus can go away, but it depends on the cause. 

However, research into the causes and treatments of tinnitus is limited, and at present, there’s no known cure. Most treatment methods focus on masking the noises or training your brain to ignore them. 

Although this may sound disheartening, there are still many treatments you can try to alleviate your symptoms. If your tinnitus is intermittent, it may even resolve on its own. 

The Link Between Tinnitus And Anxiety 

Although tinnitus research is still in its infancy, researchers have uncovered links between tinnitus, anxiety, and even sleep issues. 

We’re still unsure exactly how anxiety can trigger tinnitus, but it’s well-documented that many anxiety sufferers experience tinnitus symptoms. 

When we experience symptoms of anxiety, our fight-or-flight system is activated.

The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction that presents itself in response to a perceived stress or threat.

You’ll feel a sudden burst of energy or adrenaline that can put a lot of pressure on the nerves in your body. This also increases blood flow, body heat, and more. 

It’s thought that the physical pressure and stress generated by the fight or flight response can travel up to the inner ear and generate tinnitus symptoms. 

In these cases, your tinnitus will often be short-lived, lasting no longer than a few seconds to a few minutes.

However, this still doesn’t explain why many tinnitus sufferers experience long-term symptoms and much louder tinnitus that can be harder to drown out with conventional distraction techniques. 

It’s thought that around one in seven adults in the UK experience persistent tinnitus, but the exact nature and severity of these symptoms can vary. 

Can Stress Cause Tinnitus? 

If you suffer from anxiety, you probably also experience stress. Chronic stress can develop as a response to challenging situations, mental health conditions, and behaviours. 

Although there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that stress can cause (see also: Can Stress Cause Ovarian Cysts?)tinnitus, there is evidence to suggest that tinnitus may immediately follow or coincide with periods of stress.

Stress is even believed to worsen the symptoms of pre-existing tinnitus. 

What Else Can Cause Tinnitus? 

There’s also a chance that your tinnitus may be the result of another underlying condition. Although we still have a lot to learn about tinnitus, it’s clear that each case is unique.

If your tinnitus isn’t caused by anxiety or stress, it could be the result of another condition such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • A thyroid imbalance
  • Sinus infection
  • Damage to the middle or inner ear
  • Auditory nerve issues
  • Damage to parts of the brain that process sound 
  • Brain tumour 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Noise-induced hearing damage 
  • Medications such as aspirin or antibiotics 

Remember, this isn’t an extensive list, and there’s a strong possibility that none of the issues above are affecting you.

Some people can also develop tinnitus for no obvious reason, and it isn’t always the symptom of an underlying condition. If you’re concerned about your tinnitus, talk to your doctor for more information. 

Can Anxiety Cause Ear Ringing? (1)

How To Treat Tinnitus 

To treat your tinnitus effectively, your doctor will need to discern whether or not it’s being caused by another underlying condition. In some cases, a cause can’t be discovered. 

Your doctor may perform a series of tests including: 

  • Hearing exams
  • Lab tests to check for heart disease, vitamin deficiencies, or thyroid issues
  • Movement exams to determine whether or not your tinnitus is worsened by certain body movements
  • Imaging tests such as a CT or MRI scan 

When you talk to a medical professional about your tinnitus, it’s important to describe in as much detail as possible exactly what kind of noises you’re hearing, and how they affect you.

This will give your doctor a clearer picture of your symptoms, and help them determine which course of testing or treatment is best. 

How your tinnitus is treated will depend on the underlying cause.

Some common treatments for tinnitus include: 

  • Hearing aids: If your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, you may be prescribed a hearing aid to manage your symptoms.
  • Earwax removal: Sometimes, tinnitus can be caused by an earwax blockage. Removing an excess build-up of earwax may alleviate your symptoms.
  • Changing medication: Tinnitus can also be a response to certain medications. Your doctor may recommend stopping, reducing, or changing medication to manage your tinnitus. 

You may also be offered other treatment options including counselling or psychotherapy.

If you’re experiencing anxiety alongside your tinnitus, counselling or psychotherapy may help you get your anxiety levels under control and reduce your symptoms.

If your anxiety is severe, you may even be offered SSRIs or another medication to help reduce your anxiety levels. 

If your tinnitus has no obvious cause, you may also benefit from using masking devices or white noise machines to help block out your tinnitus. This can be particularly helpful at night time. 

Final Thoughts 

Tinnitus is a common but disruptive condition, and evidence suggests that it may coincide with periods of anxiety or stress. If you’re concerned about your tinnitus, talk to your doctor for more information. 

Clare McAfee
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