According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it’s estimated that nearly 15% of the Americans – that’s over 50 million people – suffer from some form of tinnitus. Tinnitus – or a “ringing in the ears” is a surprisingly common condition for too many people. For some people with the condition, it can be a minor nuisance in their day, but for others, it can be debilitating.
While tinnitus is a common and somewhat well-known condition, many people would be shocked to know that there isn’t any evidence-based treatment option for most forms of the condition. Although there are some treatment programs that can relieve some of the symptoms associated with tinnitus, most people with the condition are left to their own devices to find a way that allows them to live life in spite of their tinnitus.
Unfortunately, this means that many people live in a world where the impacts of tinnitus on their life are both serious and unyielding. While the effects of unmanaged tinnitus on one’s long-term mental health are well documented, tinnitus’ connection to insomnia is just now being discovered.
Insomnia: The Basics
When we miss out on a night of sleep because of travel, stress, or a night of fun with friends, we often spend the next day in a bit of a daze. During these days, we’re tired, slower to uptake information, and often have delayed reflexes or diminished motor capacities. Luckily, for most of us, these symptoms go away after a good night’s sleep and we can carry on with our lives.
But what if you live in a world where one missed night of sleep is followed by another and another and another until you’ve gone days without actually sleeping? For people with insomnia, this world is all too real.
Insomnia is a condition that occurs when someone has difficulty going to sleep or actually sleeping at least three times a week for at least three continuous months. For these people, difficulty falling asleep, waking up randomly in the middle of the night, and constant fatigue define their lives.
Having insomnia is certainly difficult, but can you imagine having insomnia and tinnitus? Did you know that the two conditions are actually linked?
The Connection Between Tinnitus And Insomnia
New research is showing us that tinnitus and insomnia might be linked condition; in fact, for about 50% of people with tinnitus, insomnia is another aspect of their condition. Generally speaking, the greater the severity of one’s tinnitus, the more likely they are to develop insomnia or other sleep issues.
That being said, since only about half the people with tinnitus also develop insomnia, researchers believe that both conditions are not just a result of physical issues, but also a result of psychological and cognitive problems, such as stress, dysfunctional attitudes toward sleep, and hyperarousal. These psychological and cognitive roots of insomnia and tinnitus may create a vicious cycle for people who can do nothing but focus on the noise they’re hearing or their inability to fall asleep, which only worsens the problem.
Thus, researchers believe that therapy might be a potential treatment for people suffering from both conditions. While some people have found pharmaceutical-based treatments to be effective for their insomnia, for people who have both insomnia and tinnitus, cognitive behavioral therapy seems to provide longer-term improvements in sleep with fewer adverse side effects.
Moving forward, therapy might be a critical piece of treatment for people with both tinnitus and insomnia. Ultimately, if you’re concerned that you have tinnitus or a combination of tinnitus and insomnia, a conversation with your hearing healthcare professional can help determine what treatment options are available to you.