Tinnitus, also known as ringing in your ears, affects about 15 percent of people in the United States. While not a disease or disorder, tinnitus can impact your daily life and overall health.
Anxiety disorders can also interfere with your functioning and daily life. They affect about 18 percent of adults in the United States each year.
While anxiety and tinnitus are two separate issues, some people will experience both. Read on to learn how the two are connected, what else may cause tinnitus, when to seek medical treatment, and how to use home remedies for coping with both anxiety and tinnitus.
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Although it’s commonly described as ringing in your ears, you may also experience buzzing, hissing, and whistling noises. These sounds are internal, making tinnitus difficult to describe to others and sometimes challenging for a medical professional to diagnose.
There are several triggers for tinnitus, including hearing loss (especially in older adults), certain medications, a blockage in your ear canal, and anxiety.
According to a 2020 nationwide longitudinal study, there’s a close correlation between tinnitus and anxiety, but the causal relationship is still a mystery. Researchers suggest that stress and anxiety are possible causes of tinnitus, but they’re still not sure how or why.
Researchers say one reason for this is that tinnitus may act as an alarm signal when you’re reacting to stressful situations, especially during the onset of stress.
If you’re experiencing tinnitus, you may want to know more about the reasons behind this ringing. Although each situation is unique, there are certain triggers to consider. Here are some of the more common causes of tinnitus:
- damage to your middle or inner ear
- issues with the auditory nerve that connects your inner ear to your brain
- issues with the parts of your brain that process sound
- objects such as wax blocking your ear canal
- brain tumors
- sinus infections
- ear infections
- thyroid imbalance
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- noise-induced hearing loss
- medications like antibiotics or large amounts of aspirin
There’s a possibility that nothing on this list is affecting you. The NIDCD notes that some people develop tinnitus for no apparent reason. The good news is that it’s rarely a sign of a serious health condition.
But persistent tinnitus can lead to other conditions like:
- memory issues
Mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and tinnitus can be managed at home. While home remedies are not a substitute for medical care, they can serve as a helpful add-on to your overall treatment plan. Here are some simple at-home interventions to consider.
Home remedies for anxiety
Mild anxiety symptoms may respond to home remedies. But if you have moderate to severe symptoms, you may need additional treatment methods like psychotherapy and pharmaceutical drugs.
At home, you can try a combination of lifestyle modifications, including:
- aerobic exercise
- deep breathing exercises
- cannabidiol (CBD), if available where you live
- reducing or eliminating alcohol and smoking
- reducing caffeine intake
- practicing good sleep habits
- a healthy diet
Home remedies for tinnitus
There’s no specific cure for tinnitus. But combining medical interventions with home remedies may help minimize your symptoms.
Some common treatments for tinnitus include:
- hearing aids
- wearable sound generators
- acoustic neural stimulation
- tabletop sound generators
- cochlear implants
- removal of excess earwax, if present
You can also try increasing the amount of exercise you get each day and including mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies, like meditation. Some people also find success with alternative or complementary treatments like:
- nutritional supplements
- homeopathic remedies
You should discuss these options with a healthcare professional before trying them.
If your anxiety or tinnitus symptoms progress or do not respond to home remedies, you may need to seek medical treatment.
Your doctor will likely do an ear exam for tinnitus and ask about your health history. Make sure to bring a list of your symptoms, noting the frequency of them and any remedies you’ve tried.
If your primary care physician cannot find a cause, they may refer you to an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for a more thorough exam or an audiologist to measure your hearing.
Whether or not a medical professional finds a cause for your tinnitus, there are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat it. But some physicians may use certain medications “off label” to treat your symptoms. This is a conversation to have with your doctor.
If your symptoms include anxiety, your doctor may refer you to a mental health expert, such as a psychologist or psychotherapist. Treatment for anxiety may help relieve your tinnitus symptoms.
Be sure to bring a list of your symptoms, noting their frequency and severity. Mention any home remedies or other forms of treatment you’ve tried.
Common methods for treating anxiety include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), biofeedback, and lifestyle modifications like exercise, meditation, and breath work.
More specifically, a treatment regimen called tinnitus retraining therapy uses CBT and supplemental sound masking to help you adapt to tinnitus.
Tinnitus, or ringing in your ears, can interrupt your daily life. While the exact causes are unknown, some people experience tinnitus as a result of high stress or anxiety.
There’s no cure for tinnitus, but many people find relief through treatments like hearing aids, wearable sound generators, and counseling.
If anxiety is the trigger for your tinnitus, a doctor may recommend a combination of anxiety-reducing medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications such as exercise and deep breathing.