It’s hard to believe the novel coronavirus began sweeping the nation one year ago. In the blink of an eye the entire world was turned upside down; shelves went bare in grocery stores, businesses closed, jobs were lost, and social distancing became the “new normal.” Many people were forced to find creative solutions to work from home while also caring for their family. All of these factors created the perfect storm for life to feel very heavy and stressful. During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. This number was previously lower, averaging about 1 in 10 adults who reported the same symptoms in 2019. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in July 2020 found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. All of these factors have increased our collective levels of stress that have manifested in myriad ways. But can stress affect your hearing?
How Stress Affects Your Hearing: Tinnitus
Clinically, more patients seem to be reporting an increase in tinnitus (noises in the ears) since the pandemic started. However, this isn’t surprising, considering stress is known to have an effect on tinnitus. With all of the additional burdens and stress people are facing, it’s no coincidence their tinnitus decided to resurface.
At the present moment, there is no formal data that suggests contracting the coronavirus leads to hearing loss or tinnitus. However, many studies have demonstrated that tinnitus is exacerbated by factors such as stress, lack of sleep, and unhealthy diet. Heavy alcohol consumption or large quantities of caffeine are also thought to negatively impact tinnitus. Additional daily worries with managing the family, job security, and interpersonal relationships have increased stress and negative feelings. Not to mention anxieties about contracting the virus or spreading it to someone you care about. Throughout the pandemic, it’s safe to say many people have found themselves relating to at least one or several of these factors mentioned.
Many people find coping with tinnitus to be very challenging. There are products sold on the internet that make claims to “get rid of tinnitus,” but many of these supplements are not evidence-based or clinically proven to work. In fact, some of the most important strategies to help manage tinnitus come from retraining your brain and learning to manage stress…which is certainly easier said than done!
Less Stress, Please!
So what can be done to help reduce stress? Who wouldn’t benefit from strategies to keep our mental and emotional health in tip top shape? Listed below are some ideas suggested by the CDC to help cope with stress:
- EAT HEALTHY: Nourish the body with wholesome, healthy foods. Avoid large quantities of alcohol or caffeine.
- EXERCISE: Spring has sprung (hopefully in your area!), so get outside and move your body. Sunshine and fresh air do wonders for the mind. Exercise boosts energy levels and releases endorphins that can help improve your mood.
- TAKE A BREAK: Hit pause on those social media platforms that keep you mindlessly scrolling. Give yourself permission to take a break from negative or biased media sources.
- BE MINDFUL: Practice yoga, stretch, or meditate! Some of these things may not come naturally at first, but practice makes perfect. Start with a few minutes a day and build up to longer meditation sessions.
- UNWIND: Find an activity or hobby you enjoy. Learning a new skill can be a positive, fun outlet.
- STAY CONNECTED: Check in on family and friends with phone calls, texts, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. Technology is a blessing and a wonderful way to stay connected, especially during times of social distancing.
- SEEK HELP: Do not be afraid to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Seek help and guidance from a trained professional if needed.
Let’s Help You Kick Stress to the Curb
Let’s kick stress and jump into the spring season feeling refreshed! Implementing simple self-care steps can seem small and insignificant, but truly make a difference. By creating healthy habits we can positively influence our mental and emotional well being. If you feel burdened by stress or are suffering from tinnitus, please contact our office. Our job is to walk through this with you and help provide solutions to improve your quality of life!
Baigi A, Oden A, Almlid-Larsen V, Barrenas ML, Holgers KM. (2011) Tinnitus in the General Population With a Focus on Noise and Stress – A Public Health Study. Ear & Hearing. 32(6):787-789.
Canlon, B., Theorell, T., & Hasson, D. (2013). Associations between stress and hearing problems in humans. Hearing Research, 295, 9–15.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Stress and Coping. Accessed on February 24, 2021.
Marshall D. (2020) Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty. Accessed on February 24, 2021.
Nirmita Panchal, Rabah Kamal, and Feb 2021. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” KFF, 10 Feb. 2021, www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/.
Pan T, Tyler R, Ji H, Coelho C, Gogel S. Differences among patients that make their tinnitus worse or better. Am J Audiol. (2015) 24:469–76. doi: 10.1044/2015_AJA-15-0020.
Vindegaard N, Benros M. COVID-19 pandemic and mental health consequences: systematic review of the current evidence. Brain Behav Immun. (2020) 89:531–42. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.048