Can stress cause tinnitus?

Are you stressing out over the ringing in your ears?


Helen Cosgrove
@AVogelUK


21 February 2018

Is tinnitus triggering your stress?

The persistence of tinnitus can trigger feelings such as frustration and annoyance which can contribute to our levels of stress. Tinnitus occurs more commonly than what most of us think, but it is generally thought that the body adapts to filter out the noise. However, the hypersensitivity associated with stress and anxiety means that you will be more likely to pick up on every sensation occurring within the body. In the case of tinnitus, this can mean that you will be more hyperaware of the problem and experience symptoms as louder and more problematic.

Is stress triggering your tinnitus?

Emotional and physical factors are both linked to tinnitus onset. It is common for tinnitus to crop up when we are under great emotional or physical stress. What’s more, existing tinnitus symptoms can be aggravated and made worse by persistent high stress levels. Ringing in the ears is commonly associated with anxiety and stress and can affect both ears, one ear, change from day to day or even from moment to moment.

Ringing in the ears could potentially be caused by increased electrical signalling in the parts of the brain responsible for auditory processing, including the amygdala – thought to be the fear centre of the brain. Stress activates our fight or flight system, and this places a great deal of pressure on the nerves, blood flow, body heat, and other bodily reactions. It also increases electrical activity in the amygdala to increase our efficiency in responding to threatening situations.1 This over-activation of our sympathetic nervous system places a great deal of stress on our body and it’s likely that this pressure in the inner ear could lead to tinnitus symptoms. What’s more, stress also increases your blood pressure and heart rate which can contribute to and make symptoms of tinnitus more noticeable.

What can I do to manage stress and my tinnitus symptoms?

As we have looked at above, there are many factors that link how you feel with your tinnitus symptoms. If this is the case then treating tinnitus symptoms goes beyond physical remedies – we have to take a look at our mental symptoms too. 

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one cure fixes all’ approach to stress because it has such a wide variety of causes and symptoms. This means that each individual’s approach to coping with stress will be different, but the good news is there is a whole range of different methods out there that can help! Check out my top tips below to help relieve your stress-related tinnitus symptoms.

Identify the source of your stress

Combating stress is a lot easier when you know what the cause might be. Stress can be caused by a whole range of areas including work, relationships, health, money, life changes and emotionally traumatic events. We all experience stress for different reasons but once you’ve identified the cause you can begin to take steps towards learning how to cope and manage your triggers. 

Three ways to identifying your stress triggers:

1) Keep a stress journal

When we’re feeling chaotically stressed it can be tricky to source out the root cause, that’s where keeping a stress journal can come in handy. Take note of any times that your stress peaks and try to identify any overlapping factors that will hopefully help to pinpoint the cause.

2) Talk it out

Getting a second opinion, whether it’s from a friend, family member, or qualified professional can be a great way to discover how you feel and why. An outsider’s perspective can offer fresh insight on a situation plus having someone listen can be a great way to get rid of any built-up emotions.

3) Know how stress feels

Stress can cause countless symptoms, and not all of them are obvious! Stress can cause various emotional and physical symptoms, things to watch out for include; tight, achy muscles, digestive problems, agitation, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, negativity and difficulty sleeping.

Natural and effective stress management

Herbal remedies are often a preferred method of treating stress as they often don’t have the side effects that occur with conventional medication. I’d suggest a herbal remedy licensed for the relieve of stress and anxiety such as our own Stress Relief Daytime which contains fresh extracts of Valerian and Hops to help soothe the nervous system.

 

Decrease stress using your breath

Even ten minutes of doing relaxation techniques can work wonders on our stress levels. Deep breathing can increase the oxygen flow to the brain which is beneficial in cases of tinnitus where constricted capillaries are thought to play a part in relation to symptoms. What’s more, deep breathing has beneficial effects on our stress levels too thus helping to soothe our nervous system, lower our heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulate an overall sense of relaxation in the body. Check out our breathing tips to reduce stress for some easy-to-follow videos demonstrating breathing techniques.

Your food can help too!

What you eat has a direct influence on how you feel – did you know that up to 90% of our serotonin (a feel good neurotransmitter) is actually produced in our gut? Our food is our body’s fuel and it’s important to fuel ourselves well to not only nurture our mood but also our physical body and digestive system. 

The main ones to watch out for if you are stressed are the usual culprits – caffeine, alcohol and sugar, but beware of lesser known culprits like tofu, pressed juices, and wheat bran too (this contains phytic acid which limits magnesium and zinc absorption). Look to include as much natural produce as you can in your diet bell peppers, spinach and nuts are fantastic nutrient sources to eat more of!

Support your circulation

Circulatory problems such as high blood pressure can make tinnitus worse so supporting your circulation is a must if you are looking to relieve your symptoms. Keeping active will help to keep your circulation healthy and it’s also a fantastic way to burn off the excess adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol that stress causes. Herbal remedies can also help to nurture and naturally support circulation – I’d suggest the herb Ginkgo Biloba which is an antioxidant-rich herb that can improve circulation.

1  http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety/symptoms/ringing-in-the-ears.shtml

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