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Why Tinnitus Gets Worse Sometimes and What to Do About It

Author:

Glenn Stok is a technical writer with tinnitus. He researches its issues and writes about it to educate his readers with similar concerns.

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I've had tinnitus since 2005 and published a research survey1 to study possible common causes. One thing we tinnitus sufferers have in common is that its level of loudness changes from time to time. So I compiled this list to share information learned from my research.

The loudness of tinnitus can fluctuate based on any number of factors. Stress, food allergies, and blood pressure could have an effect on you. I’ll elaborate on several instances below.

Thinking About It Doesn't Help

My tinnitus seems to go away when I’m busy with something and not paying attention to it. But as soon as I think about it, there it is!

In the past decade I’ve gotten used to it. I believe that's mainly because my brain has “learned” to ignore it. Therefore it doesn’t bother me as it used to in the beginning.

However, as soon as I begin to pay attention to it, it gets louder. It’s as if I’m bringing it back into focus.

I noticed that my tinnitus gets worse at night when I try to sleep. That might very well be because I’m paying more attention to it. During the day, I let my activities overpower my thought process, and I learned to not pay attention to it. But it’s still there. It just doesn’t bother me much when I’m actively doing other things.

I’ve learned to ignore it when I’m falling asleep. I used to try using white noise machines, but they never worked—at least not for me. Some people swear by them, so it’s worth trying. They help distract your attention from the tinnitus.

The trick is to try to ignore it by keeping busy with anything that demands your attention.

Tinnitus Could Be Related to Air Pressure

The American Tinnitus Association2 says that abnormal pressure in the middle ear can affect normal hearing and cause tinnitus symptoms. Barometric changes cause pressure changes in the middle ear, so tinnitus symptoms can be related.

Other Internet research shows reports from tinnitus sufferers claiming that they experience ringing in the ears with barometric pressure changes, such as when a storm was coming. Some people in my survey said it gets worse when it's raining.

There is no single cause of tinnitus, but if you feel your symptoms are related to barometric pressure changes, you could try using an antihistamine nasal spray to see if that helps.

However, keep in mind that many medications are known to aggravate the symptoms of tinnitus. As in all cases, seek the advice of your medical doctor before considering this suggestion.

Your Position Can Affect Tinnitus Levels

Some forms of tinnitus are worsened when stressed. That seems to be true especially with the type that pulsates. People with pulsating tinnitus say it gets worse when they lie down. That can be a drag when trying to fall asleep.

If you notice your tinnitus is more like a pulsating kind, it may be caused by blood vessels making pulsating sounds or by muscle movements. Lying down can make this worse because the blood pressure in the head increases in that position.

If this is your experience, you should get checked by a cardiologist since you could have plaque buildup in your blood vessels.3

Noise Can Trigger Tinnitus to Increase in Volume

My tinnitus gets worse when I hear a loud noise.

Exposure to loud noises is what most likely brought on the tinnitus to begin with. But that might not be the only cause. It’s possible that it can be health-related with some individuals, such as earwax blockage, ear bone changes, and age-related hearing loss.4

In any case, based on my own experience, once you have tinnitus, any loud noise can make it increase in volume. For this reason, I avoid going to music concerts now, ever since I realized this phenomenon.

Almost Anything Can Trigger Tinnitus

I am very much aware that my tinnitus gets better at times and worse at times. I gave a lot of thought to this ever since I found my tinnitus fluctuating from time to time. I related it to connections with stress, annoyance, and even anger. You might have other triggers.

Try giving some attention to the situations in your life that make your tinnitus worse. Watch to see if you notice a pattern. If you do, then maybe you can try to avoid those situations that bring on these emotions that influence your tinnitus.

I discuss this in more detail in another article: "How I Learned to Live With My Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)."

To Conclude

It’s helpful to discover what activities you are doing that help or hinder the level of your tinnitus. Try keeping a log of what you’re doing each day and how you feel.

  1. Keep a record of the foods you are eating. Some foods might be causing it to get worse. I found too much coffee makes it worse, but everyone is different.
  2. Also, include your stress level in your log. I discovered stress is the most leading cause of my loudness. That might be true for you too.
  3. On days when you're feeling much better and hardly noticing your tinnitus, make note of that in your log and write down what you did that day. It could be a clue to help avoid your tinnitus in the future. For example, in my case I found that when I go hiking I never notice my tinnitus.

After you have created a log of your activities, foods you eat every day, and your stress level, you should have a better idea of what changes you need to make in your life to avoid a high volume of your tinnitus.

Resources

  1. "Possible Causes of Tinnitus Based on Survey of Sufferers" - YouMeMindBody.com
  2. American Tinnitus Association - www.ata.org
  3. What Is Pulsatile Tinnitus? - WebMD.com
  4. Tinnitus Overview - MayoClinic.org

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Glenn Stok

Comments

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on May 20, 2019:

James - Yep, that would do it. I was at an Elton John concert over 20 years ago and sat in the front row—right under huge speakers. Special tickets due to connections. I felt pain during that concert and I think that’s what did it for me. I had tinnitus on and off after that, but it became permanent after a few years.

James A Watkins from Chicago on May 20, 2019:

Thank you for this very interesting article. I have a bit of tinnitus. It comes and goes. Probably from decades beating the drums in a rock band with a 100-watt Marshall wide open a few feet from my head. But it was fun!

Liz Westwood from UK on February 06, 2019:

Thanks, Glenn. I will take a look. It tends to be more noticeable at night if I don't get to sleep quickly.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 06, 2019:

KT Dunn - It's possible. A study by researchers in the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, discovered that if you have tinnitus in both ears (bilateral tinnitus), it may have been inherited.

KT Dunn from United States on February 06, 2019:

I wonder if tinnitus can also be hereditary. I've had it for as long as I can remember, and it has gotten worse over time.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 06, 2019:

Liz, Sorry to hear you also have Tinnitus. You might want to read my other article to learn more about personal experiences. https://healdove.com/disabilities/tinnitus-suffere...

Liz Westwood from UK on February 06, 2019:

This is a very helpful article, as I am wondering if I am in the early stages of developing tinnitus. A lot of your points relate directly to my own experience.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 05, 2019:

Elayne - Our brain learns to ignore it after a while. It took a few years, but at least it’s something to look forward to. However, since you also have vertigo, it could be related and you should go to a good ENT doctor to rule out any other issue.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 05, 2019:

Dora Weithers - There are many different reasons for having tinnitus, but I never heard of that one before. Asking you what you’re trying not to hear. Sounds like another doctor who just doesn’t understand tinnitus. I ran into so many of them when I first developed it. They all did and said stupid things.

Elayne from Rocky Mountains on February 05, 2019:

I am afflicted with tinnitus which is always there. I have to listen to music or turn the tv or radio on to distract myself from it. I had a hearing test and they said the hearing in the affected ear has diminished. I'm suspect it was from listening to loud concerts and pumping up the volume in the car as I drive by myself (self-inflicted)? They said there is no cure for it - only therapy to help me ignore it - so I was quite disappointed. It does bother me when it should be silent, especially when I'm trying to concentrate on something else. I also have vertigo from time to time and balance issues which may or may not be related. So many questions - I need better answers, but alas all I can do is endure the annoying noise. I'm glad I'm not alone, but sorry you have it too, Glenn!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 05, 2019:

I used to have intermittent ringing in my ears. One day, it was so loud, I left work and went to see the doctor. He convinced me that there was no physical reason. He even asked me, "What are you trying not to hear?" Every case is different with different reasons. Haven't experienced it lately.

Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 05, 2019:

Pamela Oglesby - That's about the best you can do. I got used to dealing with mine by ignoring it.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 05, 2019:

I have this problem too. The doctors have no idea why, and your article really spells that out with the listing of possible causes. I have found mine to be the loudest when I first wake up, but it never goes away completely. I have learned to ignore it when I get interested in something that holds my attention,

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