Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing or buzzing that is not there. While common – more than 15 percent of the general population experiences a ringing in the ear – the type and extent vary from person to person. One reason for the difference may be each individual’s level of stress. Those with higher levels of stress are thought to have more difficulty with their tinnitus.
Stress occurs when your biological, psychological and social capabilities are not matched by your resources.
Stress is not always bad; a reasonable amount can help you push yourself forward or focus on a specific task. In the short term, stress releases hormones to assist your fight or flight response, allowing you to defend yourself in a dangerous situation or run away and seek help.
Continuous stress on the other hand can have negative effects on your body and mind.
According to the cognitive behavioral therapy framework, stress is influenced by your situations, thoughts and behaviors. This model connects how you feel with what you think and do.
The Relationship Between Stress & Tinnitus
It is common for those with tinnitus to think about the ways the ringing in their ears affects their life and causes them to experience despair, hopelessness, a belief they will never get peace and quiet and an overall loss of enjoyment. The more they think about the negative affects tinnitus has, the worse their tinnitus becomes.
It is not clear if high amounts of stress can result in tinnitus or if tinnitus leads to stress. Experts agree that together they create a viscous cycle with each influencing the other.
From a cognitive behavioral therapy approach, the key to managing stress is to change one aspect of the model: your mental and behavioral response to stressors.
By paying attention to your thoughts, you can determine if they are helpful. When having unhelpful thoughts about your tinnitus:
- Become aware of when you are most upset by your tinnitus
- Write down what you were thinking when you had those unhelpful thoughts
- Evaluate the thoughts (are they true, what is the worst thing that could happen)
Asking yourself these questions can help you figure out more helpful things to say to yourself while experiencing tinnitus. This can help reduce the impact tinnitus has on your life.
Changing your behavior can help you better manage your tinnitus by helping you focus your attention elsewhere. These include:
- Finding a support system
- Focusing on self-care
- Doing things you enjoy
Changing how you manage your tinnitus can help improve your quality of life. To learn more, contact the experts at Carolina Ear, Nose, Throat, Sinus & Allergy to schedule an appointment today.