How stress can affect our ears and hearing

Published 12 April 2021  | Updated 16 May 2024  | 3 mins read

Stress, unfortunately, is a fact of life. But while we rightly associate stress with conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease, something we don’t always consider is the effect stress can have on our hearing.

As April is Stress Awareness Month, and 74% of UK adults feel overwhelmed by stress, we’re going to take a look at the impact it could have on your hearing.

Stress and tinnitus

Approximately one in ten UK adults have tinnitus, but what exactly is it? Tinnitus is a constant ringing in the ears, although it can take many forms. It could be a ringing, buzzing, hissing, roaring or even musical sound.

While we don’t yet understand everything about this condition, we do know it can be aggravated by stress. It’s unclear whether stress is the sole cause or is merely a contributing factor, but it’s common for tinnitus to start during a period of stress. Sufferers also report that existing tinnitus symptoms are worse when they are stressed.

The good news is that there are successful treatments out there to help you manage the condition. Both cognitive behavioural therapy and sound enrichment therapy often deliver good results, while several hearing aids now feature tinnitus relief settings (a form of distraction therapy). Furthermore, correcting hearing loss through the use of hearing aids has proven to have significant effects on reducing the noise of tinnitus. Amplifying external sounds not only helps to mask the sound of tinnitus, but also provides essential stimulation to the inner hair cells.

The team at your local practice will help you get the right treatment. Reducing your stress levels can also help to ease symptoms.

Stress can reduce blood flow to the ears

Stress produces adrenaline, and this can reduce or even stop circulation in the inner ear. The result can be reduced hearing acuity or even total hearing loss.

The only way to relieve these symptoms is to alleviate the root cause: stress. That’s easier said than done, but this NHS stress buster guide is a helpful place to start.

Stress and ear pressure

Many of us only think about our ear pressure when we’re flying. At altitude we can feel our ears pop as we yawn or swallow to rebalance the pressure in our ears, but stress can also cause similar air pressure changes.

Ears pop because of the difference in the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure outside. As stress heightens and persists, so can the ear popping and pressure symptoms.

Book your FREE Full Hearing Assessment

If you’re worried that stress is affecting your hearing or ear health, contact your local THCP practice today on 0800 52 00 546 or book your FREE Full Hearing Assessment with us online.