If you have tinnitus, you know the constant ringing you hear can make every aspect of your life feel overwhelming. While many people experience a similar ringing noise, the sounds have also been described as, “analogous to cicadas, crickets, winds, falling tap water, grinding steel, escaping steam, fluorescent lights, and running engines”, according to the NCBI. Impacting over 50 million Americans, those suffering from tinnitus often find themselves in a vicious cycle of stress.
These intrusive sounds become overwhelming, resulting in panic and anxiety, and suddenly, it becomes a challenge to relax. In some cases, the symptoms can be debilitating and can disrupt your daily life, including disrupting one’s sleep. Tinnitus is also associated with the presence of hearing loss. In fact, the greater the degree of hearing loss, the more likely tinnitus it be present, and the more likely it is to have a negative impact on an individual.
Biologically speaking, we’re hardwired to pay attention to our environments or anything potentially threatening. If the mind decides that the perception of tinnitus is a potential threat, “it causes stress, anxiety, and irritability, making it seemingly impossible to ignore the intrusive sound”. An individual may have the same psychological and emotional reaction to tinnitus as they would to a real external danger or threat.
This can result in a negative feedback loop. A person with tinnitus, cannot ignore it and begins to focus heavily on it while their negative emotions and associations to the sound build. These negative associations increase stress, which causes an increased perception of tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus acts as their ‘barometer’ of stress, often worsening when faced with multiple stressors at once.
Tinnitus and Stress
Although stress presents differently in each person, there are a few physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms that commonly appear:
- Aches and physical tension.
- Chest pain or rapid heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Changes in mood or irritability.
- Changes in appetite or digestive issues.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Difficulty focusing and paying attention.
Additionally, for those with tinnitus secondary to noise induced hearing loss, there is often a concern about further noise exposure.
Will going to a concert result in further hearing loss? Will my tinnitus get worse?
Living in an ongoing cycle of stress, those with tinnitus are more prone to experiencing depressive disorders and anxiety-related conditions.
Protecting Your Hearing
Whether you live with tinnitus or not, it’s essential to protect your hearing from damage, especially in loud environments. Noise-induced hearing loss can change or worsen tinnitus tremendously.
Earplugs are a top recommendation in the prevention of noise induced hearing loss and its associated symptoms, including tinnitus. Rather than silencing or blocking out as much sound as possible, high-fidelity earplugs allow you to change the volume and promote a clear sound. This way, you can still have conversations and enjoy music while maintaining awareness of your surroundings. Hearing protection can also prevent symptoms of tinnitus from worsening- ultimately decreasing your levels of stress.
Every small change or step you take towards protecting your hearing can quickly add to a meaningful result. And with the help of quality earplugs, you’ll return to enjoying your music, focusing on work, and achieving your goals without additional stress.