Have you ever heard a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears? Have you experienced moments when you can’t hear clearly after leaving a part, convert, or noisy dinner at a restaurant? These are signs of tinnitus which describes hearing a specific sound in the ears when no external sound is actually present. Tinnitus is not a condition itself but is a symptom of an underlying health issue that one is experiencing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50 million people experience some form of tinnitus. Additionally, 20 million people live with chronic tinnitus. Tinnitus can have multifaceted effects on everyday life and health in siunciant ways. Recent research actually shows that people who experience tinnitus can be much more likely to also experience anxiety and depression.
Link Between Tinnitus, Anxiety, & Depression
Studies show that there is a correlation between tinnitus, anxiety, and depression. An important study that investigates the link between tinnitus and anxiety-depressive disorders was conducted by researchers in Italy. This study involved 80 people who had their tinnitus as well as anxiety and depression evaluated. People characterized their tinnitus discomfort as:
- Slightly: 32.5%
- Mild: 15%
- Moderate: 12%
- Severe: 25%
- Catastrophic: 15%
Researchers found that 45% of people also experienced anxiety issues and 26.3% suffered from depressive symptoms. This data highlights that more than half of the people in this study experienced anxiety and/or depressive symptoms in addition to tinnitus. These findings reveal that tinnitus can have a major impact on mental health, wellness, and quality of life.
Impact of Tinnitus on Mental Health
Tinnitus can be stressful and overwhelming to live with. It can be mild to profound, intermittent or constant which can take a toll on essential aspects of everyday life. Tinnitus can produce anxiety and depressive symptoms by:
- Straining communication: it is estimated that 90% of all cases of tinnitus occur with underlying hearing loss. Tinnitus reduces one’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. This makes it challenging to have conversations and to hear as well as readily respond to what someone is saying. This can lead to miscommunication and unpleasant interactions that also feel laborious.
- Leading to social withdrawal: strained communication often leads to people limiting conversations as much as possible. This includes skipping out on social activities, spending less time with loved ones, and participating less in hobbies. Social withdrawal increases isolation, takes a toll on relationships, and produces loneliness which contributes to depressive symptoms.
- Affecting sleep: tinnitus can also impact sleep. Tinnitus can make it difficult to initiate and/or maintain quality sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impact mood and behavior by increasing irritability, making it hard to concentrate and complete daily tasks, producing fatigue etc.
The cumulation of these effects impact how one feels on a daily basis. Tinnitus can strain communication, relationships, and wellbeing which can take a toll on mental health. If you recognize tinnitus symptoms, it is important to address these symptoms early.
Tips to Effectively Manage Tinnitus
There are several effective tips you can use to alleviate tinnitus. Trying different strategies and figuring out a management plan can reduce the impact of tinnitus. A few tips include:
- Test hearing: because hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus, it is important to start by having your hearing tested. Hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you could be experiencing.
- Maximize hearing aid use: hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. These electronic devices help absorb and process sound which alleviate symptoms incingind tinniyuts. Many of today’s hearing aids als offer tinnitus management features.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): this type of sound therapy focuses on training the brain to reinterpret tinnitus sounds differently. Using a process known as habituation, the brain learns to interpret tinnitus as mundane background noise.
- Manage stress: stress is a major trigger of tinnitus. Identify your stressors and strategies to healthy manage your stress. This can include therapy, exercise, meditation etc.