Tinnitus is overwhelming to deal with at the best of times, but does it get worse during the holidays?
The short answer is: it might.
Tinnitus is characterized by the persistent experience of sound, typically ringing or buzzing, when there is no external source. There are a handful of triggers that can increase tinnitus symptoms, many of which are common during the holidays.
To help individuals with tinnitus navigate the festive season as comfortably as possible, we’ve put together this list of potential holiday tinnitus triggers and some advice on what can be done to minimize their impact.
Why Tinnitus Might Be More Noticeable During the Holidays
There are a few factors that can make tinnitus worse during the holidays. The most likely culprits are stress, anxiety/depression, and lack of sleep.
Stress and Tinnitus
The holiday season can be a stressful time. Holiday shopping, parties, organizing celebrations with friends or family, travel, and managing finances, can all take their toll.
Studies have found that the more stress a person experiences, the greater their tinnitus symptoms.
This is especially complicated as tinnitus may also increase stress, which worsens symptoms and it becomes a vicious cycle.
Anxiety, Depression, and Tinnitus
The holidays are a joyous time for most. For some, the holidays produce complicated emotions that may trigger anxiety and depression.
A comprehensive review of behavioral studies into the “psychological functioning of adults with chronic tinnitus,” found that chronic tinnitus may be associated with reduced emotional well-being. The review also found consistent evidence that the severity of tinnitus is associated with a range of psychological factors, most particularly, depression and anxiety.
Lack of Sleep and Tinnitus
Sleep is often at a premium over the holidays. Between parties, playing Santa, holiday travel, and added stress, restful and restorative sleep can be hard to find.
The relationship between sleep and tinnitus is complex.
Individuals with tinnitus often notice symptoms more in the evening, in part, because the general environment is quieter, making the buzzing or ringing more obvious. This can disrupt the ability to fall asleep, leading to increased stress and anxiety, further exacerbating tinnitus symptoms.
Alcohol Consumption and Tinnitus
Holiday parties can mean an increase in alcohol consumption for many people.
Alcohol relaxes and expands blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the inner ear and may temporarily aggravate tinnitus. Just be aware that if consuming alcohol it will make the tinnitus sound louder temporarily until the alcohol has fully left the body.
Tips For Reducing Stress (And Tinnitus) During the Holidays
While the exact connections between tinnitus symptoms and human physiology may seem complex, one thing is clear: stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and alcohol consumption can make tinnitus symptoms worse.
Here are some practical and proactive measures that individuals with tinnitus can take to manage and mitigate the intensification of symptoms during the holiday season:
- Try to reduce workload by delegating tasks to others.
- Prioritize moments of relaxation.
- Listen to music around 60 beats per minute (bpm). It has been found that music at 60 bpm can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat and release alpha brain waves that have been linked to feelings of relaxation and restfulness. Listening to music at this tempo may even help with falling asleep.
- Exercise. Physical activity is often helpful for relaxation. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout. Simply getting outside and going for a walk or a bike ride may be enough. Fresh air and exercise may also help with sleep disturbances.
- Stretch. Take a few moments, multiple times a day to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and stretch.
- Turn off your phone. Smartphones can be a source of stress and distraction. By turning off your phone, you will be less tempted to check your email or doom scroll on social media.
Reducing your stress will not make tinnitus go away, but it can reduce the intensity of your tinnitus symptoms, allowing you to enjoy the holidays.
Find Tinnitus Support at Chicago Hearing Services
If you are concerned that your tinnitus may worsen during the holiday season, visit Chicago Hearing Services. Our Doctors of Audiology include tinnitus specialists and we can provide you with support and strategies to minimize your symptoms.
Contact us today to book an appointment.