Can Anxiety Cause Ringing In Ears?
Anxiety can induce a huge range of varied symptoms. It can cause fatigue, brain fog, muscle tension, irritability, dizziness, shortness of breath, restlessness, headaches, nausea, pins and needles, and insomnia… just to name a few!
In recent years, thanks to patient testimony and new research, it is hypothesized that ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, can also be caused by excessive anxiety, stress, or panic.
Tinnitus is a condition where you hear ringing, buzzing, or other noises in your ears that are not caused by an external source.
Anxiety-related tinnitus can be very annoying and it can also significantly affect your quality of life and the state of your mental health.
If you think you might be suffering from anxiety-related tinnitus, take a look at the information below.
We cover everything you need to know, from how to spot anxiety-related tinnitus, to how to treat it and everything in between.
However, before engaging in any kind of suggested treatment, we always recommend consulting your doctor first.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a condition where someone hears a constant sound in their head. The noise can vary from low-pitched sounds to high-pitched noises.
Tinnitus can occur at any age, but it usually starts after the age of 40. Some people experience tinnitus only occasionally, while others suffer from it constantly.
What Causes Tinnitus?
It is difficult to find a direct cause of Tinnitus because the ear is a very complex organ.
It is comprised of an intricate and complicated system of nerves, muscles, bones, and pressure that work together to provide sound and balance information to the brain.
As such, there are thought to be many possible causes for tinnitus. It may be caused by an ear infection, hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, or other health problems.
New research also suggests that tinnitus is also a symptom associated with anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and chronic stress.
The link between tinnitus and anxiety disorders is thought to be a consequence of the effect of chronic stress on brain activity.
It is known that behaviors such as being overly apprehensive can increase neuronal activity in the amygdala. This part of the brain is involved with auditory processing.
How Do I Know If My Tinnitus Is Related To Anxiety?
If you are experiencing tinnitus and you are feeling anxious about something, anxiety causes tinnitus.
This means that when you feel anxious, the neuronal activity in your amygdala may increase, and this will then have an effect on what you can hear.
Common descriptions of anxiety related-tinnitus are hearing sounds such as:
- High-pitched ringing or hissing (in the background or foreground)
It is also common to feel as if your ears are ‘plugged’ or as though there is water or some kind of pressure in your ears.
If you have an anxiety disorder, or you are feeling particularly anxious, and you experience any of these symptoms, it is likely that you are experiencing anxiety-related tinnitus.
It is also worth mentioning that tinnitus can also be caused and/or aggravated by some medications. Unfortunately, certain anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications fall into this category.
As such, tinnitus could be a side effect of your anxiety medication.
Is Anxiety-Related Tinnitus A Cause For Concern?
Anxiety-related tinnitus isn’t considered to be a sign of anything more sinister or any kind of physical dysfunction.
It is likely that when your stress reduces, the tinnitus will also reduce in severity or go away completely. As such, anxiety-related tinnitus isn’t a real cause for concern.
However, that isn’t to say that it can’t be a very distressing and destructive symptom.
Due to its potentially severe nature and effects, anxiety-related tinnitus can induce more anxiety, which may then increase the severity of the tinnitus (and so on).
How To Treat Anxiety-Related Tinnitus
Presently, there is no medical treatment that can cure tinnitus. However, the first priority for anyone experiencing anxiety-related tinnitus is to reduce the anxiety they are feeling.
Although, we know that, for many people, this is far easier said than done.
If you are someone who struggles to de-stress and control their anxiety, we recommend that you work with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist.
Such a therapist will be able to equip you with the skills and tools you need to reduce your anxiety levels, and thus, your tinnitus.
Talking with such a therapist will also force you to address your anxiety issues. If you don’t address these issues, they will continue to stress the body.
In fact, leaving anxiety problems unaddressed or ignored is one of the main causes of persistent anxiety symptoms, such as tinnitus.
It is important to note that therapy is a long-term solution, rather than a short one. It can take time for anxiety-related tinnitus to disappear completely.
If you’re in need of immediate relief, some people have found that gently massaging their ears can reduce the extent of ear ringing.
Consult Your Doctor
Before you seek treatment, it is first necessary that you consult your doctor. This is the case for a number of reasons. First, a doctor can more appropriately diagnose the cause of your tinnitus.
They may check your ears to ensure that there is not another pressing cause of the ear ringing.
Additionally, once you have received a formal diagnosis for anxiety-related tinnitus, a doctor will be able to advise on necessary treatment.
This may be changing the anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication you are taking or suggesting a certain style of therapy.
Although anxiety-related tinnitus isn’t a serious condition, it can still be a source of distress and annoyance. Thankfully, there are ways to treat anxiety-related tinnitus.
The most effective way to do this is by talking to a qualified anxiety disorder therapist. However, before engaging in any kind of treatment, it is necessary that you receive a diagnosis from your doctor first.
Author: Michelle Landeros, LMFT
Michelle Landeros is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT). She is passionate about helping individuals, couples and families thrive.
Last updated: February 28, 2024