Treating sleep apnea can sometimes help relieve symptoms of tinnitus. Physical activity and quitting smoking may help, as well as CPAP machines or oral appliances.

A man lies in bed with his eyes closed, possibly dealing with sleep apnea and tinnitus. Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/skaman306

Sleep apnea is a common health condition that’s known to cause symptoms such as snoring and daytime sleepiness. It may also put you at an increased risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions. There may also be a link to tinnitus, a condition that causes a ringing in your ears.

Researchers believe cell damage from oxygen loss during the night could be one reason that sleep apnea may increase your risk of tinnitus, as well as hearing loss from repeated exposure to loud snoring.

For people with both tinnitus and sleep apnea, treating both conditions at once can sometimes be beneficial. This article will provide more information about the relationship between these two conditions and the treatments that may help.

Research shows that sleep apnea and tinnitus commonly co-exist.

A 2016 study found that roughly 30% of people with sleep apnea also experienced tinnitus. Another study a year later made similar findings, with a higher incidence of people with tinnitus also experiencing sleep disturbances.

There are a few possible reasons for this link.

One of the primary theories is tied to the oxygen loss that occurs when a person has sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing during the night. This leads to a lowered total level of oxygen in the body, which can damage cells in the ears. This damage can result in tinnitus.

Another theory is linked to the loud snoring associated with sleep apnea. Frequent exposure to loud noises is a known risk factor for tinnitus. So, it’s possible hearing nightly snoring could lead to tinnitus.

Tinnitus causes people to hear a ringing, buzzing, or whistling, in one or both ears.

For most people, this sound is more noticeable in quiet environments. This can make tinnitus seem louder and more disruptive at night, making it difficult to sleep.

You can’t completely cure or eliminate tinnitus with your sleeping position. However, some sleep experts recommend elevating your head during sleep.

This can lessen any congestion you might be experiencing and can make tinnitus sounds less noticeable.

The answer to what condition to treat first in order to treat tinnitus depends on the underlying cause of your tinnitus.

Sometimes, both conditions are chronic. A doctor can help diagnose and guide you in treating each condition individually or collectively. They might even want to address both of them at once for the best outcome.

In other instances, tinnitus can be the result of treatable conditions such as:

When tinnitus is linked to one of these factors, it can often be resolved quickly. In this situation, it will be treated first.

If tinnitus isn’t linked to a treatable condition, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms to determine what should be treated first.

In many instances, treating sleep apnea can help reduce symptoms of tinnitus, so your doctor might start your sleep apnea treatment before any tinnitus treatment. However, your plan will be individual and based on your needs.

It’s unlikely that tinnitus treatments will directly help sleep apnea.

However, treating tinnitus could help you get a better night’s sleep. This could help you achieve some of the lifestyle changes that often treat sleep apnea, such as increasing your physical activity and achieving a healthy weight.

Common tinnitus treatments include:

  • hearing aids
  • ear cleanings
  • medications

You can learn more about tinnitus treatment in this article.

Conversely, treating sleep apnea might have a more direct effect on tinnitus.

Increasing the oxygen in your body and no longer snoring can sometimes help relieve tinnitus symptoms. This means sleep apnea treatments can also help with tinnitus symptoms.

Common sleep apnea treatments include:

There seems to be a link between tinnitus and sleep apnea. It’s possible that the link is due to the oxygen loss that occurs when people have sleep apnea since oxygen loss can damage cells in the ear and cause tinnitus. It’s also possible that long-term exposure to a loud sound, such as snoring, could cause hearing loss, resulting in tinnitus.

The exact link is still unclear, but treating sleep apnea can sometimes help relieve symptoms of tinnitus.

Treatments for sleep apnea can include lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, achieving a healthy weight, and quitting smoking, along with medical interventions such as CPAP machines and oral appliances.