Anxiety affects people in various ways, from causing feelings of unease to making it difficult to sleep. In some individuals, it can cause ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus.

People with tinnitus may hear ringing, buzzing, hissing, or other sounds not associated with an outside source. The severity varies from person to person, but it can be distracting and disruptive, affecting someone’s quality of life.

Treatments for tinnitus vary depending on the underlying cause. For example, doctors may suggest medications, stress-relieving activities, or certain types of therapy for tinnitus triggered by anxiety.

Keep reading to learn more about how anxiety may trigger ringing in the ears, other mental health issues that may cause ear ringing, and how an individual can manage the condition.

Close up of several bells, which cause a ringing sound.Share on Pinterest
Photography Aubrey Stoll/Getty Images

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Stress is the outcome of a complex interplay between someone’s thoughts and their physical reactions.

According to the American Psychological Association, the characteristics of anxiety include tense feelings, worried thoughts, and physical changes such as increased blood pressure.

Doctors link anxiety to several medical conditions, including tinnitus or ringing in the ears. ResearchTrusted Source indicates that up to 45%Trusted Source of individuals with chronic tinnitus present with anxiety symptoms, and that tinnitus often worsens after an individual experiences stress.

Tinnitus may present as ringing or another sound, such as:

  • humming
  • fluttering
  • buzzing
  • hissing
  • whistling
  • sizzling
  • air escaping
  • musical notes

People may find frequent bouts of tinnitus disturbing, and it can cause difficulties with sleep and focusing.

Anxiety and tinnitus have a complicated, interlinked relationship. Anxiety and related mental health conditions can cause tinnitus, and tinnitus can exacerbate episodes of anxiety, as it may cause the individual to worry.

Learn more about how anxiety affects the body here.

Around 10–60%Trusted Source of individuals with chronic tinnitus also live with depression. While researchers are unsure whether tinnitus comes before a psychological condition or the other way round, there is an observed link between psychological distress and tinnitus progression.

studyTrusted Source that used self-reported stress questionnaires noted high stress levels in people with tinnitus across all demographics, with many of the participants also reporting depression. These findings suggest a cause-and-effect relationship between tinnitus and psychological distress.

People with anxiety may experience intrusive thoughts or concerns that continuously return.

They may also have physical symptoms, including:

Various factors can lead an individual to develop tinnitus, and people may experience it differently. As a result, the best treatment or management option for a person with tinnitus will depend on the factors involved.

There is currently no cure for tinnitus. Treatment aims to reduce its impact and allow the individual to live as comfortably as possible, with reduced stress.

Doctors may recommend:

People may also benefit from speaking with a skilled counselor or therapist who can help them manage their emotions and responses. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective methods of improving the quality of life among people whose tinnitus impacts their mental health.

Tinnitus masking is another helpful method to manage ear ringing. Masking uses an external noise to ease hyperactivity in the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound information. This reduces the individual’s awareness of the ringing, thereby reducing the level of discomfort and disturbance.

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears means an individual is aware of sound in their ears when there is no outside sound source. Anxiety and tinnitus are linked conditions. People with tinnitus often live with high levels of stress and anxiety.

Constant tinnitus can disturb an individual’s life and cause difficulties sleeping and focusing. It can also trigger worsening episodes of anxiety and depression.

The use of medication to treat tinnitus often targets an underlying psychological condition. Other treatment methods like tinnitus masking and counseling seek to reduce the individual’s awareness of the sounds in their ears.