Does Stress Cause Tinnitus?

Reviewed By:
May 24, 2023
6 min

What is Stress?

Stress is a psychological, behavioural and/or physiological response we have, usually when we sense an inability to adapt to a situation or fail to achieve some tasks. It is associated with our survival instinct which activates our ‘flight or fight’ mode. When we feel stress, our alertness is increased, so we are prepared to deal with a given situation.

A brief or small amount of stress is okay, and even helpful for us in stressful situations. Helpful stress helps us to avoid danger, meet important deadlines and complete tasks.  However, we can sometimes experience chronic or unhelpful stress. Managing chronic stress is important, as it is associated with a range of negative side effects for our health and reduced quality of life. These can include cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, as well as poor mental health and more.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can be manifested in our body, mind and behaviour. When we feel stressed, we might panic, feel tense or nauseous, sweat, sleep poorly, have a faster heart rate or experience shortness of breath. We also may experience emotional symptoms such as agitation, frustration, difficulty relaxing and a general sense of overwhelm. Our behaviours might also change. We might find ourselves withdrawing from the things that trigger our stress or things that we enjoy to focus on dealing with the stressful task. We might even do more alternative activities to cope with stress. When we’re chronically stressed, it’s common to get stuck in patterns of unhelpful thinking. For example, we may think “I can’t deal with this/I don’t want to do this anymore”, “This is never going to end”.

Some symptoms of stress

Stress and Tinnitus

Research suggests that the limbic system in our brain can be modified by the stress response. The limbic system is responsible for dealing with emotions and memory. There is evidence indicating an interaction between the auditory system and the limbic system in tinnitus. This explains how anxiety, stress and chronic tinnitus often occur together, and how one can affect the other. This is otherwise known as the vicious cycle, where tinnitus triggers stress, which in turn increases our awareness of our tinnitus and perception of it worsening.

As we know, our perceptions really matter when it comes to dealing with stress. It’s common for tinnitus sufferers to perceive their tinnitus symptoms as a source of fear because they don’t understand what it is. They may also think they are never going to manage it or get lasting relief. If we think this way, our stress levels are likely to increase which turn our bodies into a fight or flight mode. After that, the stress-related responses are manifested, and these responses can make us feel even more stressed and may lead to a higher level of tinnitus. And you may already know, a higher level of tinnitus is going to put us in a feedback loop, a cycle of tinnitus and stress. This happens when we do not manage stress and tinnitus properly.

What Can I Do?

Thankfully, there is a raft of helpful management strategies available to reduce the bothersomeness of your tinnitus! These can include mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques and counselling therapy. Read our blog on management strategies here for ideas.

If you are experiencing significant stress, it's important to consult your doctor.

Tinnibot is a convenient and helpful app that can educate you about your tinnitus, and teach you helpful tools to better manage it. Tinnibot uses Cognitive-Behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you shape the way you think, and mindfulness to help you manage your tinnitus and stress. It is a beneficial tool and a companion for your tinnitus journey. Download Tinnibot today to find out more!

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