Tinnitus and post traumatic stress: what is the link?
Written by: Loris Vitry (holistic coach)
Validated by: Cathy Maillot (Osteopath)
Caution: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please speak to your doctor. Even if the articles on this site are based on scientific studies, they do not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Although listed and treated in ENT medicine, tinnitus is a pathology whose real causes are little known until now.
Many scientists defend a strong correlation of this phenomenon with stress.
In fact, stress is, in some cases, the trigger and even amplifies tinnitus.
In this article, we will focus on highlighting the link between the onset of tinnitus and post-traumatic stress.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder?
Stress can be defined as the set of physiological reactions of an organism vis-à-vis a constraining situation, a particular event or external pressure.
This succession of reactions is manifested by a temporary difficulty in adapting to the immediate environment and its requirements.
This is what is reflected in the definition proposed by endocrinologist Hans SELYE, for whom stress is “adaptation syndrome”.
Generally, in our daily life, we are confronted with two types of stress.
Stress described as positive which mobilizes the body, wears it out and pushes it to move.
The second stress, qualified as negative, is a set of physiological reactions which will have the consequence of paralyzing the person who is subjected to it, of limiting their cognitive and reactive faculties, of developing inhibitions in them.
When the event with which the individual has been confronted is so violent that it has shaken or his physical or psychological integrity or that of those around him has been affected, the resulting stress is qualified as post-traumatic.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is therefore the difficulty of adaptation that follows a violent situation such as an accident, a serious illness, a birth, a cruel act experienced or an anxiety-provoking relationship.
Faced with such an event, when the return to the normal situation becomes impossible, post-traumatic stress is called chronic.
What is tinnitus?
Triviably, tinnitus can be defined as an auditory sensation, not perceived by those around you, to the exclusion of the person who suffers from it.
In other words, it is hissing, buzzing, ringing or clicking that does not exist, but is perceived exclusively by the person complaining.
We usually talk about tinnitus because there are two types of tinnitus.
Objective tinnitus and so-called subjective tinnitus.
The former relate to real noise that is audible to those around you and can be measured.
They are due to organic dysfunctions such as the tremor of the muscles of the ear that may be felt by those around the patient.
This type of tinnitus is rare and can be treated.
The second is manifested by a sound that is heard only by the patient.
They represent about 95% of cases, and are more difficult to treat because their causes are not well known.
Tinnitus can occur in both ears and vary in intensity.
In extreme cases, they significantly affect the quality of life of patients.
First of all, let’s take a look at the concepts of stress, anxiety and anxiety.
As mentioned above, stress is a whole mechanism of responding to a situation and therefore gives rise to emotions, one of which is anxiety.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is a more heightened form of anxiety.
Since anxiety is accepted as a cause of tinnitus, it can be said, with caution, that stress may well be, in some cases, a trigger for tinnitus.
On the other hand, it can be said without reservation that stress is an aggravating factor for tinnitus.
This, because of the very fact that it is a series of physiological reactions.
Indeed, any stressful situation causes a series of physiological reactions which mobilize the brain as well as the adrenal glands for the production of cortisol.
The purpose of this series of neuronal and hormonal reactions is to provide a response to the stressful situation.
This response, described by scientists as the “fight or flight response”, is the first stage in coping with the stressful situation.
Unfortunately, the fight-flight response is not possible when the source of stress is internal.
The patient therefore cannot dissociate himself from the annoying noise he perceives in his ears, or echoed in his skull.
And even in the event that the patient undertakes to flee from it or to lessen it, there follows an emotional distress tending to accentuate these sound perceptions.
Indexed emotional distress is justified by the fact that human sensory organs have always been connected to perceive sensations outside the body.
All of a sudden, through tinnitus, the affected subject finds himself confronted with an “internal sound effect” which seems to imprison him in his being.
This unresolved internal aggression leads to emotional distress.
The patient then finds himself trapped in a vicious cycle in which tinnitus and stress feed off each other.
Of course, the best way to alleviate post-traumatic stress-induced tinnitus is to manage it.
This is because of the link of interdependence that is established between these two phenomena.
Once the stress is evacuated or, at the very least, channeled, the hippocampus could regulate the overproduction of cortisol and therefore promote the reappropriation of the adaptation process by the affected subject.
At this stage, the tinnitus that started with anxiety will gradually subside and eventually go away.
On the assumption that they will not disappear, the brain will however set up a process of habituation by which the patient will learn to live with these sound perceptions without feeling attacked.
What about other tinnitus?
Objective tinnitus, that is, those caused by morphological factors, age, lifestyle and others, can be treated with appropriate drug therapy.
Alternative medicine methods such as acupuncture, homeopathy or even osteopathy can also be used.
In the most troublesome cases, it may also be necessary to use hearing equipment designed to eliminate any hearing discomfort, by constantly amplifying and filtering sounds.
Depending on whether it is a technology for external or in-ear use, the prices of this device vary between 700 euros and 2000 euros.