If you have tinnitus, you know the constant ringing you hear can make every aspect of your life feel overwhelming. Impacting over 50 million Americans, those suffering from tinnitus often find themselves in a vicious cycle of stress. While many people experience a similar ringing noise, the sounds have also been described as being “analogous to cicadas, crickets, winds, falling tap water, grinding steel, escaping steam, fluorescent lights, and running engines”, according to the NCBI.
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.
Tinnitus and Stress
Although stress presents differently in each person, there are a few physical, emotional, and behavioral 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.
A person with tinnitus still experiences typical symptoms of stress but with an additional sensitivity to sound. This sensitivity results in an emotional, physical, and psychological reaction to sound. Usually, the brain is fully capable of filtering out repetitive sounds without conscious effort. For example, this process is what allows someone without tinnitus to focus in noisy areas. The repetition of the sounds coming from people moving or talking gets filtered out. But for someone with tinnitus, it can feel impossible to ignore or interpret every sound as dangerous.
Biologically speaking, we’re hardwired to pay attention to our environments or anything potentially threatening. If the mind decides that the noisy stimuli are a “potential threat,” it causes stress, anxiety, and irritability, making it seemingly impossible to ignore the intrusive sound. But with tinnitus, the brain has a more difficult time differentiating between an imagined threat and a real danger-causing the same emotional and psychological reaction.
Creating an ongoing cycle of stress, those with tinnitus are more prone to experiencing depressive disorders and anxiety-related conditions. And like any physical or mental health condition, stress can trigger symptoms of tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus acts as their ‘barometer’ of stress, often worsening when faced with multiple stressors at once.
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 have helped several people, and they are a treatment option worth considering. 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. It 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.