Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

In Hearing Health, Tinnitus by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

Tinnitus is a buzzing or ringing sound you may hear when everything around you is quiet. This can be confusing or scary at first, but after a while, chronic tinnitus can contribute to anxiety and depression. Dealing with tinnitus day in and day out can take a toll on your mental health. Here’s how.

What is Tinnitus?

Let’s start with the basics. Tinnitus is a phantom sound that only you can hear. This sound doesn’t come from the environment around you. Instead, it’s all in your head. Tinnitus is most commonly caused by damage to the cells in the ears. When these cells are damaged, they sometimes send signals to the brain even if there aren’t any sounds around you.

Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent. Chronic tinnitus is present all the time, especially when you’re in a quiet place. Everyone experiences tinnitus differently, but it may sound like:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whistling
  • Whooshing
  • Roaring
  • Hissing
  • Screeching 

Regardless of the sound you hear, tinnitus is annoying. This constant sound can leave you feeling frustrated and exhausted.

Tinnitus, Anxiety, and Depression

For some, chronic tinnitus can be uncomfortable and irritating. An Italian study took a closer look at the relationship between tinnitus, anxiety, and depression. The study concluded that people with chronic tinnitus are far more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression compared to people without tinnitus.

The study included 80 participants who had tinnitus. The participants all rated tinnitus discomfort, with 32.5% of participants rating the discomfort as slight. Meanwhile, 15% rated discomfort as mild, 12% rated their discomfort as moderate, and 40% rated their discomfort as severe or catastrophic. 

The study found that almost half the participants had anxiety symptoms, and 26.3% had depressive symptoms. The researchers concluded that experiencing chronic tinnitus can have a major impact on mental health. The participants were far more likely to have anxiety and depression when living with chronic tinnitus. 

What’s it Like to Live with Chronic Tinnitus?

Do you have tinnitus? Does a loved one complain about a constant ringing or buzzing in their ears? Living with tinnitus can be exhausting. Tinnitus is more prevalent when you’re in a quiet place. It makes it hard to focus on tasks, follow conversations, or relax and unwind before bed.

Tinnitus and stress are part of a vicious cycle. When you experience chronic tinnitus, you may start to feel stressed and annoyed. You may have a harder time sleeping at night and you may spend more time focusing on your tinnitus. This increases your stress levels, making it even harder to manage tinnitus. And your experience of tinnitus can intensify! Until something breaks this cycle, stress and tinnitus can continue to escalate. 

Ongoing stress can increase your risk of anxiety and depression. It becomes harder to regulate your mood and emotions when you feel exhausted by constant tinnitus and stress.

Treating Tinnitus

Treating tinnitus is the best thing you can do to reduce your experience of tinnitus, lower your risk of anxiety and depression, and improve your quality of life. There is no way to cure tinnitus, but there are several effective ways you can manage tinnitus.

Relaxation techniques: Learning relaxation techniques can help you manage stress and reduce tinnitus. This can include breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, and meditation. 

Sound masking: One treatment option is sound masking. You can use a white noise machine to create a continuous sound or static. Tinnitus sounds can fade into this background noise so you’ll stop noticing the tinnitus. This can be especially effective at night. 

Tinnitus retraining therapy: This treatment program combines sound masking and counseling. Slowly you retrain your perception of tinnitus. You’ll notice tinnitus less and experience less stress. 

Hearing aids: Many hearing aids have tinnitus management programs that provide tinnitus relief. These programs are calibrated to your unique tinnitus. They’re programmed to play white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, or even your own music. Best of all, these programs will play masking sounds at the right pitch and volume to mask your tinnitus. 

Are you ready to explore your treatment options? Visit us today for a hearing test and consultation. Managing tinnitus will lower your risk of anxiety and depression to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Let’s find a treatment option that really works for you.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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