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How to manage tinnitus and stress

If you have tinnitus (noise in your ears or head) and stress is making it worse, help is available. There are also things you can try to help you manage both stress and tinnitus.

Signs of stress

Stress is the feeling of being under too much pressure. It’s usually caused by a change in daily life and a lack of control over what is happening. 

Stress can cause different symptoms, including:

  • fast heartbeat
  • disrupted sleep
  • sweating
  •  loss of appetite
  •  difficulty concentrating
  •  feeling anxious, worried or irritable
  •  headaches
  •  muscle tension or pain
  •  dizziness.

If you have tinnitus, stress may make you: 

  • more aware of it 
  • find that it changes in volume or sound
  • experience it more often, if your tinnitus comes and goes.

Research shows that stress can be a trigger for tinnitus, or make it worse. And some people, though not all, find that tinnitus makes them feel stressed and anxious. 

So you may find yourself in a cycle: stress makes your tinnitus worse, which in turn makes you feel more stressed or anxious. The coronavirus pandemic is having an effect on almost every aspect of our lives, and many of us have found day-to-day life more stressful. 

The good news is that help is available, and there are things you can try to help reduce stress and manage tinnitus.

Get help with stress and tinnitus

If you’re finding it hard to cope with stress and tinnitus, contact your GP. You might not get a face-to-face appointment during the coronavirus outbreak, but they should offer you an appointment remotely.

If you have already seen an audiologist or tinnitus specialist, contact your audiology service to see what support they can offer during this time.

There are also other things that may help:

  • Contact us if you need support or just want to talk to someone who understands.
  • Share experiences with other people with tinnitus by joining one of four new online support groups that the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has set up.
  • Listen to soft music to distract yourself from your tinnitus. You can also get different tinnitus relaxers and apps that play relaxing sounds.
  • Get advice and tips on how to cope with stress during the coronavirus outbreak from the NHS website and mental health charities – see our list of useful information
  • Search and download relaxation or mindfulness apps from the NHS apps library. Learning how to control your responses to stress is an important part of tinnitus management.
  • Try daily exercise, if you can. This doesn’t have to be strenuous activity. 

If your sleep is affected

You might want try these tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Get up at the same time each day, even at weekends – don’t nap in the day or catch up on lost sleep as this won’t improve your sleeping pattern.
  • Think about room temperature and the bedding you use – if you’re too hot or too cold in your bed, you’re more likely to wake up during the night.
  • Reduce nicotine and caffeine – both are stimulants that can keep you awake.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol – it may help you get to sleep initially, but it may make you wake you sooner, once the effects have worn off, and stop you getting back to sleep.
  • ‘Wind down’ at least an hour before bed – have a warm bath or listen to relaxing music, and put your mobile devices away.
  • Switch the light off as soon as you go to bed and tell yourself that sleep will come. Don’t ‘try hard’ to go to sleep – resting in bed can be just as helpful.
  • Find a short relaxation exercise to try when you’re in bed.
  • Try listening to gentle music – this may relax you and distract you from your tinnitus.

For more information on managing tinnitus during the coronavirus outbreak, see the British Tinnitus Association website.