There are two types of anxiety. There’s common anxiety–that feeling you get when you’re dealing with a crisis. And then there’s the kind of anxiety that isn’t necessarily attached to any one event or concern. You feel the anxiety frequently, regardless of what you’re doing or thinking about. It’s more of a generalized sensation that seems to pervade the day. This second type is typically the kind of anxiety that’s less of a neuro-typical reaction and more of a mental health concern.
Unfortunately, both kinds of anxiety are pretty terrible for the human body. Prolonged periods of chronic anxiety can be especially bad. When it’s anxious, your body releases all kinds of chemicals that heighten your alert status. It’s good in the short term, but damaging over a long period of time. Over the long run, anxiety that cannot be treated or brought under control will begin to manifest in certain physical symptoms.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
Symptoms of anxiety often include:
- A feeling that something terrible is about to occur
- A pounding heart or shortness of breath often associated with panic attacks
- Depression and loss of interest in activities or daily life
- General pain or discomfort in your body
- A feeling of being agitated or irritated
But chronic anxiety doesn’t always manifest in the ways that you might anticipate. Indeed, there are some pretty interesting ways that anxiety might actually end up affecting things as seemingly obscure as your hearing. For example, anxiety has been associated with:
- Tinnitus: You probably know that stress can make tinnitus worse, but did you know that there is evidence that it can also cause it ringing in your ears to develop over time. This is called tinnitus (which, itself can have any number of other causes as well). For some, this might even manifest itself as a feeling that the ears are blocked or clogged (anxiety is amazing, yes?).
- Dizziness: Chronic anxiety can sometimes make you feel dizzy, which is a condition that may also stem from the ears. After all, the ears are typically responsible for your sense of balance (there are these three tubes in your inner ears–look, it sounds crazy, but it’s true).
- High Blood Pressure: And then there are some ways that anxiety affects your body in precisely the way you’d expect it to. In this case, we’re talking about elevated blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, high blood pressure can have all kinds of negative secondary effects on your body. It is (to use a colloquialism) bad news. High blood pressure has also been known to cause hearing loss, dizziness and tinnitus.
Anxiety and Hearing Loss
Since this is a hearing website, we typically tend to focus on, well, the ears. And your ability to hear. With that in mind, you’ll forgive us if we spend a little bit of time talking about how anxiety and hearing loss can feed one another in some slightly disconcerting ways.
First and foremost, there’s the isolation. When someone suffers from hearing loss, tinnitus or even balance issues they tend to pull away from social interactions. You may have seen this in your own relatives. Maybe your mother or father got tired of asking you to repeat yourself, or didn’t want to deal with the embarrassment of not understanding–and so they stopped talking so much. The same is true for balance problems. It may affect your ability to drive or even walk, which can be embarrassing to admit to friends and family.
Social isolation is also associated with anxiety and depression for other reasons. When you do not feel yourself, you don’t want to be with other people. Unfortunately, this can be something of a loop where one feeds into the other. That sense of isolation can set in quickly–and it can lead to a host of other, closely associated issues, including cognitive decline. For someone who suffers from anxiety and hearing loss, battling against that shift toward isolation can be even more challenging.
Finding the Right Treatment
Tinnitus, hearing loss, anxiety, isolation–they can all feed on each other. That’s why finding the right treatment is so important.
If tinnitus and hearing loss are symptoms you’re struggling with, getting proper treatment for them can also help with your other symptoms. Connecting with others has been shown to help alleviate both depression and anxiety. At the very least, treating these symptoms can help with the sense of isolation that might make chronic anxiety more severe. Check with your general practitioner and hearing specialist to explore your options for treatment. Depending on what your hearing test shows, the right treatment for hearing loss or tinnitus might involve hearing aids. The right treatment for anxiety might involve therapy or medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been proven to help manage tinnitus.
Here’s to Your Health
We know, then, that anxiety can have very real, very serious consequences for your physical health in addition to your mental health.
We also know that hearing loss can lead to isolation and cognitive decline. Coupled with anxiety, that’s a recipe for, well, not a great time. Luckily, treatments exist for both conditions and getting that treatment can make a big, positive difference. The health impacts of anxiety don’t have to be permanent–what anxiety does to your body does not have to last. The sooner you get treatment, the better.
Page medically reviewed by Kevin St. Clergy, Audiologist, on April 13, 2020.