A Review of Tinnitus: Importance of Relaxation Techniques

January 23, 2018 |

Graphic of an ear with yellow, blue, and red scribbles surrounding it.

Tinnitus (TINN-a-tus) can be defined as the perception of sound, such as a ringing, buzzing, or hissing, that is not actually present in the surrounding environment. It can be temporary or long term, and even vary in intensity. Tinnitus should be thought of as a symptom and not a condition itself. It is most commonly caused by age related hearing loss and damage to the auditory system via noise exposure, however, many other variables can cause or intensify tinnitus. For example, certain medications, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and salt intake can all cause tinnitus. More potential causes of tinnitus are listed below. Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list.

  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
  • Ear wax build up
  • Head congestion
  • High blood pressure
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Tumor related conditions (rare)
  • Barometric trauma
  • Vestibular disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Depression and anxiety

It is important to note that stress is a major modifying factor of an individual’s perception of their tinnitus. The more stressed a person is, the more intense their tinnitus may seem, especially if the cause of their stress is due to the tinnitus. It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. You notice the bothersome ringing, buzzing, etc. and become stressed. The stress from the added attention to the annoying sound causes the tinnitus to become worse. When the tinnitus becomes more intense then so does the stress.

The first goal for treating tinnitus is reducing the negative association that is psychologically tied to the bothersome noise and breaking the cycle. This can be done in multiple ways, which is usually determined by an audiologist based on your perception of your tinnitus, preference for sound, hearing loss, etc. All tinnitus treatment plans are supplemented by some emphasis on stress reduction in addition to sound generators, hearing devices, and/or lifestyle changes. Stress reduction techniques include yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.  It is also important to develop strategies to manage sleep problems as many individuals with tinnitus find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. A leading hearing device manufacturer, Widex, recommends the following strategies:

  • Set a standard bed time and wake up at the same time each day
  • Don’t watch television or eat right before bed
  • Walk or exercise for a least 10 minutes earlier in the day
  • Keep your room dark and at comfortable temperature
  • Don’t nap too late in the afternoon
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol for a few hours before bedtime
  • Use a fan or noise generator to help relieve the tinnitus before falling asleep

Although tinnitus cannot be cured for the majority of individuals, relief is possible with a comprehensive treatment plan that includes stress reduction techniques.

If you have any questions or concerns about your tinnitus please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our ENTs. A hearing test will also be scheduled to assess the function of the auditory system.


Make an Appointment by calling 616-994-2770

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