10 Tips to Keep Tinnitus From Ruining Your Sleep

Tinnitus is a condition that causes ringing or other sounds in the ears and affects nearly 50 million Americans. It can be chronic and debilitating, especially for those over 55 and with hearing loss. Tinnitus can interfere with sleep, but treatments such as sound therapy, stress management, and medication can help alleviate symptoms. Support groups and counseling can also provide assistance.

If you experience a ringing, rushing, hissing, humming, buzzing, or other sounds in your ears, you’re not alone. Nearly 50 million Americans have tinnitus, an audiological and neurological condition that has no cure.

Tinnitus can be acute (temporary) or it can be chronic (ongoing) and persistent. When tinnitus persists for more than six months, it’s known as chronic tinnitus. While most people with chronic tinnitus get used to the ringing over time, one in five will find it disturbing or debilitating. It’s more common in people over age 55 and is strongly associated with hearing loss.

Sometimes, tinnitus can be so loud and distracting that it can interfere with a person’s ability to sleep, work, and socialize. According to tinnitus expert Pawel Jastreboff, PhD, for 4%-5% of the general population, tinnitus leads to significant suffering including severe sleep deprivation.

Here, learn more about what causes tinnitus and what you can do to prevent it from ruining your sleep.

What causes tinnitus?

Even though tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it hasn’t been found to cause hearing impairment. Likewise, hearing loss has not been found to cause tinnitus. Not only do some people with tinnitus have no difficulty hearing, but some are acutely sensitive to sound (a disorder known as hyperacusis).

Although the cause of tinnitus is unknown, several risk factors and conditions can trigger or worsen it. These include:

  • cumulative noise exposure
  • age-related hearing loss
  • obstructions in the middle ear
  • head and neck injuries
  • alcohol use
  • temporomandibular joint disorder
  • obesity
  • traumatic brain injury
  • diabetes
  • ear infection
  • smoking
  • certain medications (aspirin, anticonvulsants, cancer medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics, antidepressants, and antibiotics)
  • medical conditions including thyroid problems, anemia, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and stress

How does tinnitus affect sleep?

Sleep disturbance is a common and frequent complaint reported by people with tinnitus, with insomnia being one of the most oft-cited problems. Shifting from a daytime environment (with all the noises that come with it) to the quietness of the bedroom at night can make the noise from tinnitus much more noticeable and overwhelming, often leading to difficulty falling and staying asleep. And people with insomnia report more emotional distress from tinnitus.

Further complicating matters is that sleep deprivation can make tinnitus symptoms worse— creating a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, impaired functioning, worsening tinnitus symptoms, and poor sleep.

How can you sleep better when you have tinnitus?

Here are some of the treatments and strategies that can help you cope with tinnitus and get the sleep you need.

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