During these challenging times, my patients’ overall mood has been somber. I see fewer smiles and more frustration. Many of you have expressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your quality of life. Some of my patients have chosen to forego hearing checks and hearing aid care. As a practice owner we are constantly re-evaluating daily how to best serve our patients, safely. Unfortunately, all the ramifications of this pandemic are still unknown. It has caused a great deal of uncertainty and continues to cause unrest and anxiety.

Things Are Tough Right Now, No Doubt About It

As the pandemic has stretched on, I have noticed many patients reporting an increase in tinnitus, and unfortunately, I’m not surprised. Stress can cause many problems and exacerbate others. Tinnitus, (ringing in the ears) is a known side effect of hearing loss, and can generally be dealt with daily until stress levels rise. Then, frequently, tinnitus can become significantly worse. Because of this increase in reported tinnitus issues, I wanted to take a moment to inform you all about the effects stress and anxiety can have on Tinnitus.

While tinnitus is a known side effect of hearing loss, not all patients experiencing tinnitus have hearing loss. If the patient is not considered a candidate for amplification after a thorough health history review and hearing evaluation, I counsel them regarding the snowball effect.

The Snowball Effect

Tinnitus, if caused mostly by stress or anxiety, can become neverending as the body reacts physically in other ways, causing additional problems such as insomnia, anxiety, and even depression. These additional issues seem to intensify the tinnitus, trapping patients in a vicious cycle. To avoid this cycle, patients must find a way to relax and manage their symptoms instead of stressing and exacerbating them. Fortunately, individuals with tinnitus can follow the tips below to learn to control their stress before it causes worse problems.

  • Where Do We Start? During these times, we need to be creative! 
  • Schedule A Hearing Evaluation – Tinnitus and hearing loss usually go hand in hand. About 90% of my patients who are diagnosed with hearing loss also suffer from tinnitus. For some of them, the tinnitus is not bothersome. For others, it is debilitating. As a doctor of audiology, I am well versed in tinnitus and tinnitus treatment.
  • Reevaluate Your Social Media Time – Check how much social media you are consuming. Ask yourself, “Am I using this to create meaningful connections and relax or is this causing my stress levels to rise?”
  • Reach Out – If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or alone, reach out to a friend or family member. Chances are, they are feeling lonely too—especially during this time! Although expressing your feelings can seem scary, it is the first step to releasing your negative emotions. Reaching out to a mental health professional or your primary care physician is also a good idea since anxiety is sometimes associated with other mental health disorders. Please don’t hesitate because you fear a stigma. We all need help sometimes and anxiety, depression, and stress-related mental health problems are no exception. You don’t have to suffer in silence.
  • Exercise One way to reduce stress is to simply exercise. Exercise has been proven to help individuals relax, forget about what is bothering them, and simply enjoy life. Another good option for reducing stress is to participate in yoga and meditation sessions or get a massage on a regular basis. 

Reach Out!

Nobody wants to have tinnitus and those who have it already certainly don’t want their symptoms to worsen. If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, your first step should be to find a local audiologist like myself. I am a doctor of audiology and have 24 years of experience diagnosing and treating hearing loss tinnitus. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call 503-774-3668.