Insomnia and tinnitus can both be troublesome issues on their own, but when a lack of sleep affects your ears, it can be all the more unpleasant. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with both conditions that can help you get a better night’s sleep.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are ringing, humming, buzzing, and cricket-like chirps. An estimated 36 million Americans have tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and is most often caused be hearing loss.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. It can cause symptoms of fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, and a decreased performance in work or school. About 60 million Americans deal with insomnia.

Insomnia has been known to make tinnitus worse. The negative effects of insomnia can lower people’s tolerance to tinnitus. Conversely, treating insomnia can increase people’s tolerance to that ringing in their ears.

Studies indicate, however, that tinnitus doesn’t actually wake people, and sleeping is in fact seen as a relief by some people. However, those who don’t sleep well might worry about tinnitus more, and worrying about it might actually be the cause of the problem.

CEENTA Audiologist Allison King, AuD

“Unlike short-term stress that we all sometimes experience, tinnitus may create chronic stress in some individuals, which can exacerbate sleep difficulties,” CEENTA Audiologist Allison King, AuD, said. “This can cause a vicious cycle between increased stress, perception of tinnitus and loss of sleep. Treating sleep disturbances is a critical component of successful tinnitus management.”

While there is no cure for tinnitus, it can be managed with:

  • Hearing aids: these devices can treat the hearing loss often associated with tinnitus.
  • Sound therapy: this can include masking devices, such as white noise or nature sound machines.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: a way to help patients deal with the emotional effects of tinnitus.

There are also things you can do train your body to sleep regularly:

  • Set a bedtime routine: A warm bath, light reading, or listening to calming music can help.
  • Make mornings bright: Open the shades, turn on bright lights, or even consider investing in a light box to use on dark mornings.
  • Avoid too much light stimulation at night: Stop using iPads, cell phones, laptops and certain E-readers 60-90 minutes before bed, since the light can convince your brain it should stay alert.
  • Limit Caffeine: Caffeine should not be consumed less than six hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise: Studies show that people who exercise during the day have fewer problems sleeping. However, they shouldn’t vigorously exercise less than 5-6 hours before bedtime. Stretching or calming exercises, such as yoga, however, can be done closer to bedtime.
  • Monitor your food intake: While heavy, late meals interfere with sleep, a light snack can help induce sleep.
  • Avoid nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime: Alcohol can disrupt your sleep as it metabolizes.

With treatment and management of your sleep routine, the only ringing you’ll have to worry about will be your alarm clock.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with one of CEENTA’s audiologists or sleep specialists, call 704-295-3000.


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