Is Stress The Cause Of The Ringing In My Ears?

Reviewed By:
May 24, 2023
3 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, and 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, behaviour or mind. 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 Ringing in your Ears

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 tinnitus symptoms as a source of anxiety and fear. People may also feel hopeless in their ability to manage it and get relief. However, thinking this way can trigger our stress response even more! Unfortunately, people can get caught in a vicious cycle of worry about tinnitus, which increases their perception of it and makes it feel worse.

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