For more than 50 million Americans suffering from varying degrees of Tinnitus, the perception of sound in the ears that is not externally present, the constant ringing can range from a minor annoyance to a debilitating problem that affects the quality of their day to day life. Painful headaches, trouble concentrating, and depression are common with chronic Tinnitus, but one symptom can stay long after your day is done: Insomnia.
According to the CDC, more than a third of adults report symptoms of Insomnia, with millions struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. How are these two maladies linked? Though not entirely understood, studies show promising connections between the severity of Tinnitus symptoms and Insomnia, explaining how it can exhaust you in more ways than just buzzing in the ears.
Understanding Tinnitus and its symptoms is key to exploring the connection between continuous ringing and restless nights. While some Tinnitus conditions are temporary and often ignored, chronic cases can be life-altering, causing severe cognitive, psychological, and emotional stress that correlates with Tinnitus severity, as shown by studies conducted by the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. This stress can follow you into bed at night, as a 2017 study concludes linking the range of severity to the likelihood of Insomnia-related symptoms. The more severe the Tinnitus symptoms, the more likely patients described sleeping issues due to the annoying humming. These nocturnal struggles create “dysfunctional attitudes towards sleep and distorted sleep perception”, hopelessness, and anger, leading to distress in the form of anxious thoughts and attitudes surrounding your Tinnitus and your ability to fall asleep. The nightly cycle compounds itself as perpetual fatigue and anxiety often make you more irritable and Tinnitus less tolerable, keeping you awake longer and later the more sleepless nights you have.
Unfortunately, there is no simple cure for Tinnitus or its related Insomnia, though some treatments can be effective in giving you relief at night. First and foremost, prevention of Tinnitus and further damage is significant to reducing symptoms of both ailments. Wearing hearing protection when needed, avoiding perpetual exposure to amplified sounds, and keeping ear canals clear of accumulating earwax are all ways to keep the bothersome buzzing at bay.
For those already suffering debilitating or chronic Tinnitus and related Insomnia symptoms, it’s important to discuss a treatment plan with your medical doctor to meet your particular level of severity. It’s possible to find relief utilizing sound suppression in the form of hearing aids or white noise machines while sleeping, sound therapy with a certified Audiologist, or cognitive behavioral therapy. Medication such as benzodiazepines or low-dose antidepressants and psychiatric therapy can also be considered when evaluating mental health issues such as depression or anxiety related to Tinnitus, that as studies identify, are linked to an increase in Insomnia-related symptoms.