Tinnitus: most people think of it as an innocent phenomenon, but often the opposite is true. Ringing ears is one of the most common ailments in humans, and can be caused by various factors. For example, your ears may ring when you have been swimming under water, or when listening to loud music. In such cases it is a temporary problem.

Sometimes, however, the tinnitus lasts longer. In that case the chance of tinnitus is very high. Contrary to what many people think, the cause of persistent tinnitus is a burnout. What exactly does tinnitus mean and what does it have to do with burnout?

In this article we show the relationship between stress and tinnitus and then explain tinnitus in case of burnout.

Tinnitus, what’s that? Suffering from ringing ears many recognize. For example, after swimming underwater, while listening to loud music for a long time or during a severe cold. This is often temporary.

The moment this feeling lasts longer than a few days, there is a chance that you suffer from ringing or tinnitus. It is estimated that 1 million Dutch people suffer from this problem. The question is: how do you recognise it? And how can you best deal with it?

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How does stress cause tinnitus?

Tinnitus develops in our brains. There’s an area of our brain called auditory cortex. This allows us to perceive sounds. So the problem is not in our ears, but in our brains.

If nerve cells in the auditory cortex can no longer process sound signals, the cells start communicating with each other. So the tinnitus tone is caused by the signals that the nerve cells fire at each other.

In addition, there are stress symptoms that have a major influence on the development of tinnitus. You will read more about this later.

Read more: symptoms burnout

Reduce stress with a ringing in the ear

Tinnitus is a Latin word that means ‘ringing’. With tinnitus we constantly hear a sound that is not there at all. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a beep, it can also be a buzzing, humming, whistling, ringing or rustling tone. Often tinnitus goes hand in hand with hypersensitivity to normal environmental sounds. Some people even experience pain.

Tinnitus can have a major impact on life, both privately and professionally. If the cause is stress, you can learn to deal with the condition relatively quickly and even make it disappear altogether.

Ringing ears: stress and burnout

Recognition of tinnitus in case of burnout

A very important symptom of tinnitus is that you hear a sound that comes from within and not from outside. The environment does not perceive this sound either. Several kinds of sound are heard. If you are curious about the sounds a person hears with tinnitus, you can listen to them on the site of the Dutch Society for the Hearing Impaired.

The sounds heard can also differ in strength, regularity and pulsation. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes soft, sometimes monotonous, sometimes it’s gone and sometimes it’s very long. People with tinnitus notice that stress aggravates the complaints.

What does ringing or tinnitus sound like

In this video an example of how tinnitus sounds when experiencing burnout (thanks to RTL News)

Stress as a cause of tinnitus

The development of tinnitus is difficult to determine. There are no less than 400 risk factors that can cause the sounds. Examples are: ear infections, the Ménière disease, heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. In addition, prolonged exposure to loud noises (music, work, etc.) is a reason that can cause tinnitus.

But stress is also mentioned as a cause of tinnitus, according to a Swedish study. This research shows that tinnitus occurs 2.5 times as often in people who are under a lot of stress. Stress also aggravates tinnitus in people who already suffer from tinnitus.

Stress can of course occur in different forms, but with a burnout the stress level is very high. This ensures that disorders, such as tinnitus, are much more h2ly observed. Of course, there are many more possible causes of tinnitus, including high blood pressure, ear infections, and even high cholesterol.

Stress caused and aggravated by burnout, however, has a very big effect on how one experiences tinnitus. For example, studies have shown that tinnitus is much more common among those suffering from chronic stress.

What if tinnitus causes stress?

Yeah, because that’s possible too! For example, it can provoke an emotional reaction: you feel threatened by the tinnitus. It very often happens that tinnitus causes anxiety and that you start to worry whether it will ever go away. Because how are you going to get on with your work, can you keep up with the tinnitus in the long run? Or will I still be a nice person to my loved ones? These threatening feelings only cause more stress. And as you now know, tinnitus is reinforced by this. Time for action!

Ringing ears: stress and burnout

The link between burnout and tinnitus

Tinnitus can be more accurately described as a phenomenon in which the person in question hears sounds coming from within. It is therefore a sound that others do not perceive. This sound can be either whistling, squeaking or rustling.

The squeaking or noise is continuously present and varies from moment to moment in volume and tone. One moment it may be loud, the next it may be soft. Sometimes it is monotonous, after that it is temporarily completely gone.

What does this have to do with a burnout? It has been proven that stress factors can worsen the symptoms of tinnitus. And that is exactly what a burnout is: physical and psychological stress that has reached a critical point.

The consequences of tinnitus

If you have heard the tinnitus sound, you probably understand that someone with tinnitus can run into major problems like:

  • Difficulty falling asleep and sleeping through
  • Concentration problems
  • Fear
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Anger/ agression

When tinnitus is caused by stress, the tinnitus gets worse. The symptoms are then worse and the noise gets louder. Focusing on the noise is also a reason for the symptoms to get worse. This is why learning to cope with stress in tinnitus is so important. It helps to get the symptoms under control.

Heartbeat in ear due to stress

Stress influences the development of tinnitus, but also hearing loss. When you can hear environmental sounds less well, the sounds in your own body are more noticeable. Just like a ticking clock, you only notice it when it is quiet in the room. This is exactly what happens when you hear your own heartbeat.

If, in addition to hearing your heart beating, you also suffer from palpitations, dizziness, headaches or, for example, chest pain, we recommend that you contact a doctor directly. Stress also affects our heart and vascular system. Living too long with too high a stress level eventually causes a burnout. So be alert and take action.

Ringing ears: stress and burnout

How a burnout affects tinnitus

But how can a burnout cause tinnitus? The answer is obvious. A burnout is always preceded and characterized by a high level of chronic stress, both physical and psychological. This brings with it symptoms, including high blood pressure and cholesterol, a lowered immune system, and so on. And these are precisely the things that trigger tinnitus.

The consequences of tinnitus are incalculable. Besides physical nuisance, isolation, anxiety attacks, insomnia and even depression are possible. In addition, these problems make the tinnitus even worse, as they trigger an even h2er stress reaction!

Reduce tinnitus

So the cause of tinnitus is often stress and burnout. It goes without saying that people then look for ways to reduce stress and burnout. Instead of seeing tinnitus as a condition in itself, it should be interpreted as a symptom of a deeper problem.

So the message is: reduce stress. Usually it turns out that if one gets rid of chronic stress or a burnout, the tinnitus will largely or even completely disappear!

There are countless opportunities to learn how to deal with tinnitus caused by stress. The most effective are listed below:

1 | Therapy focused on your behaviour

It is very useful to learn simple things that help you deal with stress. Sometimes you just need to know it, sometimes you need to practice it to learn skills.

2 | Stop stress

Stop stressful situations. Seems so easy sometimes: but staying in a stressful situation is not an option. This leads to making choices. Think about it carefully, but make a choice!

3 | Focus

Try not to focus on the sound, no matter how awkward it is. You can help yourself by looking for distractions in a study, hobby, walk or sport.

4 | Masking tinnitus

Find another source of sound to drown out the sound. Keep in mind that this should be a pleasant sound. The new sound should be relaxing. The builders drill is not suitable for this. Nice music (with for example headphones on) will help you to drown out the sound. You then have a moment’s rest

5 | Live healthy!

We use the BERG method during our coaching. Good nutrition, exercise and rest/relaxation ensure good health. So live like a top athlete, but instead of top sports tinnitus: take good care of your body.

6 | Stimulants

Coffee, nicotine, alcohol etc. cause extra stress. If the tinnitus gets too bad, you should leave these stimulants in place.

Getting rid of tinnitus in case of burnout

Many doubt whether they can get rid of their tinnitus in case of burnout. Not without reason: tinnitus often gets stuck after burnout. This while burnout tinnitus can be remedied quite well. Take a look at our effective ways to get rid of burnout tinnitus.

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Training and coaching

Milltain provides training and coaching for private individuals and organisations. Our team consists of 35 coaches and trainers who have now helped thousands of people struggling with stress and burnouts.

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