by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man explained,
I’ve had low level tinnitus for several years. However, it is something that my mind has just gotten used to and it never bothered me. I had to “think” of it to really know it was even there.
My job had become very stressful in the last few months of 2014. In addition, my job included a 1 to 1½ hour commute each way—more stress. Also, I wasn’t exercising like I should be, I was consuming a little too much alcohol and I was not eating properly.
By mid-January I noticed that my tinnitus was louder than normal. I thought it would go away, but it continued to be loud for several more days so I mentioned it to my wife. Her immediate response was, “What is your blood pressure?” It was 205/110! I went to the doctor the next morning and he prescribed 10 mg of Lisinopril and 12.5 mg of Hydrochlorothiazide. Although the drugs helped to get my blood pressure down to an average of 134/74, my tinnitus got louder for the next few weeks.
I went back to my doctor and he said, “You have tinnitus, nothing can be done about it”. I was beside myself as I didn’t know how I could live with it. Thankfully, the tinnitus level did not stay that high, and it has become more manageable in the last couple of weeks, but it is still higher than it used to be. I am hoping you can answer the following questions:
1) Does blood pressure affect tinnitus?
2) I started taking Lipoflavonoid but read in a couple of sites that it mainly seems to help those with Meniere’s disease. I am switching to Arches formula. Do you have any history with that?
3) The high blood pressure and tinnitus gave me a short period of anxiety. My heartbeat would pick up speed, especially at night. It woke me up a couple of times. Does anxiety affect tinnitus?
4) The tinnitus is really good some days and not so good others. Not sure why is changes? I am staying away from alcohol & salt and am now exercising more.
My tinnitus is better than it was in January (Thank God!) but I am hoping that I can find a way to reduce the volume even more. I am anxious for your response so that I can understand further. I would love to understand what happened and what I can do about it. I am also ordering your book because some of the answers I want may be in there. Thanks very much for your help.
I think your experiences with tinnitus are a classic example of how unresolved stress can lead to a host of other conditions and together result in loud tinnitus.
Before this episode began, you had faint background tinnitus that did not bother you. In fact, you had to listen carefully for it to even hear it. This is because you were not letting your tinnitus bother you. Consequently, it had no impact on your life. This is the best way to handle tinnitus. We call this being habituated to your tinnitus.
Then came a period of prolonged high stress. Look what happened. You were under so much pressure that you began to let your lifestyle slide. Your healthier eating habits fell by the wayside, You began drinking too much. You quit exercising. You began to be anxious and worry.
All this led to your blood pressure rocketing out of control. One of the results of high blood pressure can be loud tinnitus—which is exactly what happened. You went to your doctor and began taking Lisinopril to bring down your blood pressure. But one of the side effects of Lisinopril is tinnitus. This may have then boosted the volume of your tinnitus even higher.
You then went back to your doctor and told him you were having trouble coping with your tinnitus and all your “stupid” doctor did was tell you that you have tinnitus (which you already knew) and told you there was no cure and no help for it (which is wrong, wrong, wrong).
This just made you even more stressed and anxious. In your own words, your state of mind at that point was, “I was beside myself as I didn’t know how I could live with it.”
This is the “perfect storm” of events to almost guarantee you a lifetime of horrible tinnitus, but fortunately you did some right things—started eating better, quit drinking, began exercising more—things like that. At the same time, the Lisinopril brought down your blood pressure which also helped reduce your anxiety and your tinnitus.
Furthermore, the stress you experienced at work greatly reduced, which again had a calming effect on your tinnitus.
Now you want to know how to continue to get your tinnitus under your control so you can habituate to it like you had done before.
The good news is that you are well on your way.
You have your blood pressure under control and high blood pressure can certainly make existing tinnitus worse. So you don’t have to worry about tinnitus from this factor now.
You have tried taking lipoflavonoids to see if that would help your tinnitus. Some doctors like to prescribe lipoflavonoids and they do help some people. Here is a quote from a piece I wrote,
The basic purpose of the lipoflavonoid formulation is to increase blood flow to your inner ears. If the ear problems you have are related to lack of adequate blood flow, then such a formulation will help–as it does in some cases of tinnitus. However, there are many cases of tinnitus that do not respond to such formulations for the simple reason that the majority of cases of tinnitus are not caused by a lack of blood flow in the inner ear. (1)
The easy way to do it is try the lipoflavonoids and if they help you great. If not, try something else. Thus your question about Arches Tinnitus Formula.
Arches Tinnitus Formula is made from the herbal, Ginkgo biloba. Arches is one of the very few herbal preparations that contains an effective dose of the active ingredients in Ginkgo (according to the German “E” commission, which studied effective Ginkgo use for tinnitus). In each dose of 480 mg of Ginko, it is standardized to contain 24% flavone glycosides and 6% terpene lactones, not to mention a minimum of 2.6% bilobalide. (2)
You can try it and see if it helps you. It may or may not. As I understand it, Ginkgo works best if your tinnitus is related to a lack of blood flow (oxygen) to your inner ears (and stress could certainly cause your blood vessels to constrict). Just be careful that you don’t take blood thinners at the same time as you take Ginkgo, as Ginkgo is also a blood thinner to some degree.
Now to answer your question, “Does anxiety affect tinnitus?” The short answer is “yes”. You want to get your anxiety under control because strong negative emotions such as anxiety and depression can (and do) affect tinnitus.
Furthermore, realize that unresolved stress is also a form of anxiety. The heavy stress load you carried at work (and its attendant anxiety) alone could have brought on the tinnitus.
The good news is that you are finding your tinnitus dropping as you get your stress and anxiety under control (you are sleeping better among other things). Continue to do positive things that further reduce your anxiety and allow your tinnitus to continue to fade into the background. See how it all works together?
Don’t expect your tinnitus to just fade away in a linear fashion—slowly get less and less—although that may happen. Rather, expect that you will have good days and bad days (like you are experiencing). Over time you will notice that you are experiencing more and more good days and fewer and fewer bad days. This is an excellent sign that you have a handle on your tinnitus and that you are now in control, not your tinnitus.
In order to retain your position as the “boss” of you tinnitus, do things to keep your anxiety levels low, to keep your stress under control, to keep your blood pressure down and learn to ignore (not focus on) your tinnitus. As time goes on, your tinnitus should fade into the background.
Taking control of your tinnitus also includes the healthy lifestyle changes you have made (getting more exercise, staying away from alcohol, salt, etc.) At the same time, eat healthier too. Cut out refined foods as much as possible and zero in on eating more and more raw vegetables and fruits.
Learn to “hang loose” and to treat your tinnitus as a totally unimportant sound in your life. I suggest you think of it as “fridge noise”—the sounds your fridge makes. I have never yet seen a person sitting on the edge of a chair raptly listening to fridge noise. Rather, people so ignore the sounds their fridges make that if I were to ask a person whether their fridge was on or not, they’d have to stop and listen of a moment. Treat your tinnitus the same way. As you do that, whether your tinnitus is there or not won’t make any difference—because it won’t affect your life any more than fridge noise does. When you reach that blissful state, you’ll once more be habituated to your tinnitus.
If you want to learn more about tinnitus, the many things that can trigger tinnitus, or more about a number of things you can do to help bring your tinnitus under control, check out my book, When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How.
(1) Bauman, Neil. 2006. “Will Lipoflavonoids Help Musical Ear Syndrome?“.
(2) Bauman, Neil. 2011. “Arches Tinnitus Formula—What’s the Score?“.