What is Tinnitus?

People suffering from tinnitus usually describe it as a ringing, buzzing or whistling noise. It is surprisingly common, with around 18% of the population find that they can suffer from it at some stage in their lives.

Tinnitus can vary in severity and even though most people have a relatively mild form, it can have a big impact on their quality of life. Tinnitus is a physical condition. In other words, it is not something you imagine. There are a number of possible causes, but it is quite often associated with hearing loss.

Things that could make tinnitus worse

  • Stress and fatigue
  • Caffeine, tea, coffee, cola soft drinks, chocolate, alcohol, nicotine and some drugs

Stress can more than double the instance of tinnitus

Tinnitus is more than doubly prevalent in persons who are under stress or burnt out than in other people. This is shown by a study from The Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

In the study, test persons were exposed to stressful situations, for example answering questions while at the same time being interrupted. After the test, blood tests were taken as were new hearing tests. The blood tests tested for levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone which is activated in stressful situations and animal tests have shown that cortisol effects hearing.

“We found that tinnitus is 2.5 times more prevalent in people who are under long-term stress,” says Professor Barbara Canlon, who was one of the people leading the research.

Perceiving sound poorly

According to Professor Canlon, "There was also a clear tendency showing that sound recognition and the ability to perceive spoken numbers in noise was worse in the group of stressed subjects than in other people. This is the first time that it can be proven that long-term stress has an effect on hearing. It is important to consider long-term stress and the risk of burnout when treating tinnitus and over-sensitivity to sound.”

The researchers surmise that tinnitus and stress react together, in that stress can lead to tinnitus and tinnitus can lead to stress.

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