by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked:
Millions of people experience stress. Some people end up with tinnitus because of stress, others don’t. Why? I believe I developed tinnitus from stress. It is the only logical answer I can come up with because I wasn’t taking any medication, and my hearing is perfect. I haven’t been exposed to loud noise. It just happened out of blue one afternoon. The tinnitus began in my right ear and has never stopped. The only thing that I can figure out is that I was under a lot of work-related stress at that time. I have since eliminated the work stress. Since I am self-employed, I stopped accepting work that was causing the stress and reduced my work to part time so I no longer feel work stress at all.
Why then doesn’t the tinnitus clear? I have habituated to my tinnitus. I read your book several times and I also did Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), counseling and used table-top sound generators. I am fine now in that I can live with my tinnitus, and it is no longer intrusive for me. However, I am just really curious about it. So much about it doesn’t make sense to me.
A certain amount of stress is good for us. It gets us out of bed in the morning for example. But too much stress is just too much. Some people know how to handle stress. Others don’t. Probably those that can effectively handle stress aren’t very susceptible to tinnitus. But those that can’t handle stress more often notice their tinnitus, and as they focus on it, it becomes more and more intrusive.
Depression can also bring on tinnitus. Studies have shown that depressed people typically have a higher incidence of tinnitus than people who are not depressed. Also, the tinnitus is louder and more intrusive in depressed people than in people who are not depressed.
Another thing about tinnitus that confuses people is that tinnitus is not one single “thing”—but is really a number of different things that all produce phantom tinnitus-like sounds. Thus, one treatment doesn’t fix everything. For example, tinnitus caused by a constriction in an artery in your neck (pulsatile tinnitus) is not going to respond to the same treatment you need for tinnitus caused by noise, or tinnitus caused from taking drugs, or tinnitus caused by stress or depression. Each of these needs specific treatment related to the cause. Since it is a complex subject, there is no one easy answer that makes sense in all cases.