Are you stressed from the ringing in your ears? I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have any control over your tinnitus. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve had it for one day, or 10 years.

Tinnitus is a sign from your body, telling you that something is off. I want to help you learn, practice, and get your health back to normal. It’s not easy, but if you’re motivated and willing to do the work, you can take back control of your tinnitus.

Keep reading and I’ll share my favorite techniques for reducing tinnitus stress.

Relationship Between Stress & Tinnitus

Dr. Ben Thompson explains the relationship between tinnitus and stress in this video.

Stress is your body’s natural response to tinnitus, something it doesn’t know. The auditory brain creates the perception of a ringing in the ears, and communicates with the emotional brain.

Your brain then sends a signal to your autonomic nervous system. This is subconscious, so you’re not aware of this happening, but your body is put into a state of high alert.

The autonomic nervous system’s job is to maintain homeostasis, to preserve stability and balance in your body. When your body feels the stress from the autonomic nervous system, it can in turn get stressed. That’s a natural way for the autonomic nervous system to protect your body, because it’s sending you signals to be fearful of or on high alert about some unknown aspect in your environment—in this case, the ringing in your ears.

So if you learn more about the cause of tinnitus, and it’s not so unknown, that’s going to reduce this response in your autonomic nervous system.

Some symptoms you might feel as a result of tinnitus stress could involve headaches; having a hard time falling asleep; lack of motivation; lack of concentration; or just feeling off.

There’s a direct relationship between the auditory system and the emotional brain. When the auditory system has a signal of tinnitus, the emotional brain is aware of that signal. When the emotional brain sends a signal of “What is that sound? I’m scared of that, I don’t know what that means,” that amplifies the auditory brain further.

It creates what’s called a feedback loop, where your tinnitus and your emotional response to it are both increased. They just get more and more intense together.

Feedback Loop In The Auditory System

I see this with patients who work with me via telehealth, who wonder why they have ringing in their ears. And after our sessions, especially at the beginning, they learn how to reduce stress and calm down their autonomic nervous system, to relax their body, because they understand tinnitus better. It’s important to learn about what tinnitus is: why it’s in your system, what you can do about it, and that it’s likely not going to be something lethal or cause significant harm to you. But it’s also something that we will have to learn how to manage and live with.

We’re not trying to completely cure tinnitus, because for most people, there is no direct cure. However, there can be significant gains. We can make an improvement in our quality of life with tinnitus.

It’s very similar to chronic pain. Chronic pain means I’ve had this pain for a long time, I can’t really make it go away. But for patients who do have chronic pain, there are significant ways to improve the quality of life. And with that comes a reduction in the pain itself. The goal is not to completely remove the pain, the goal is to learn how to live with it, how to take it in stride and move forward with the life that you choose to live.

Psychology of Tinnitus

There’s a part of each of our minds that loves negative thinking. This means that part of your mind is comfortable, complacent, and tolerant of the tinnitus being there.

There’s another part of our minds that takes action and that has a positive outlook. That part of your mind might have the inspiration to read this article, or the motivation to see a therapist, or the belief that you can do something to improve your tinnitus, to make it get better or potentially go away.

That belief is the driving force. That is the true you. And that’s something that we have to amplify and fully embody in order for you to make significant gains with your tinnitus. You have to come from that place of thinking positively about it, because that’s going to make a big difference in your outcome.

Anything that gets us in our body and out of our mind is going to have a big benefit on our tinnitus and our stress from it. These can be simple things like walking around your neighborhood, going for a run, a bicycle ride, or swimming. Any of those activities will get us out into the world, into our bodies, moving and feeling much better. These forms of simple aerobic exercise are proven methods to improve sleep and stress, including your stress associated with tinnitus.

Practices to Help Relax Tinnitus

I also want to mention mind-body practices. This could involve meditation, yoga, guided breathing, anything that really relaxes us.

There are many great resources for us out there. You don’t have to do it alone. You’re never alone, even if tinnitus makes you feel isolated because no one can see or hear it.

Doing mind-body practices can help you significantly tap into your center, the core of your being. What that means is that we’re trying to get ourselves out of our heads, away from the negative thinking that can make stress, anxiety, and depression significantly worse, and into our bodies. Guided meditation and focusing on our breathing is a great way to do that.

Typically, this practice is done in the morning or in the evening. I have a Tibetan singing bowl and meditate regularly, and I highly recommend it. There’s a lot of resources on our blog here for you to check out.

I’ve had many patients talk to me about the relationship between stress and tinnitus. When I bring this up to them in our appointments, what they share with me is very clear. When I explain that when your stress is increased, tinnitus can seem louder, and when you are relaxed and feeling comfortable in your life, the tinnitus will also likely come down, they reflect this back to me. They say,

“Yeah, you’re right. When I’m calm, I’m not thinking about my tinnitus. But over the last two weeks or over the last two months, I’ve had many things change in my life.” For example, “My mother has been sick,” or “I just started a new job,” or “I’m having some challenges in my relationship.”

In that way, tinnitus can be a health-o-meter. It can make us aware of what else in our life isn’t going so well or needs some attention. Oftentimes, this means slowing down, going inward, and focusing on our health. And some of these practices, like aerobic exercise or mind-body techniques, were designed and have been tested for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as proven methods to become more peaceful. If you can relax into your tinnitus, this will make it much better. Oftentimes it can reduce the loudness of the ringing as well.

It’s been so nice to discuss stress and tinnitus. Make sure to download the free tinnitus guide, which you can access by clicking here.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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