What Makes Tinnitus Worse?

Do you ever hear a slight buzzing, ringing, roaring, or clicking in your ears that simply won’t go away? If so, you may be one of the millions of people around the world who live with tinnitus. This auditory issue, which affects roughly 15 percent of the United States population, can lead to ear pain, stress, and can make your daily activities a struggle.

This stress brought on by tinnitus can lead to a vicious cycle where the symptoms cause even more anxiety. While there is no universal cure for tinnitus, effective treatment and management options exist for this condition.

Researchers have identified many causes of tinnitus, including age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, certain medications, or even jaw problems. Tinnitus can even be a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition, such as acoustic neuroma or Meniere’s disease. With so many causes of tinnitus, seeing a tinnitus expert is important to receive thorough testing and an accurate diagnosis.

At Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center, our team of specially-trained doctors of audiology help guide tinnitus sufferers to find relief from this – sometimes – debilitating condition. Sound Relief offers only proven effective treatment that specifically addresses the patient’s symptoms of tinnitus. Because we understand that each individual’s perception of tinnitus is unique, customizing treatment is vitally important to ensure the best outcome.

In this blog, we take a closer look at what kinds of things make tinnitus worse.

What Is Tinnitus?

Have you ever attended a concert or listened to loud music and heard a slight buzzing or ringing in your ears after? If so, you’ve experienced a mild form of tinnitus. This hearing condition can last for just a few moments, or in more serious cases, can also become permanent.

Simply put, tinnitus is the perception of a sound when no external stimuli are present. Tinnitus can be very frustrating because, primarily, it’s only heard by the person suffering from the condition. This can make it challenging to determine if you even have this hearing condition.

Two Types of Tinnitus

There are two types of tinnitus, subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus, which is much more common, is the type of tinnitus only the individual can hear. Causes for subjective tinnitus include auditory nerve damage and problems within the outer, middle, or inner ear.

Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is much rarer and can actually be heard by someone else, like a doctor or audiologist, when they are performing a hearing test. Muscle spasms, blood vessel issues, or abnormal growth of the middle ear bone generally cause this form of tinnitus.

What Kinds of Things Make Tinnitus Worse?

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease; therefore, there is no cure. However, there are certain things you can do on your own to alleviate the symptoms. There are many causes of tinnitus, and specific activities, like smoking, sleep deprivation, or stress, actually make this hearing condition worse. Some issues, like stress or anxiety, can heighten tinnitus symptoms, which in turn leads to even more stress or anxiety. To help you better understand and manage your symptoms, here are some common things that worsen tinnitus.

Loud Noises

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is repeated exposure to loud noises. Even a brief moment (a few seconds) can lead to a buzzing or ringing in the ears, which can then lead to permanent tinnitus. Avoiding loud noises whenever possible and wearing ear protection are both effective ways to prevent tinnitus. If you already experience tinnitus, certain types of ear protection can help alleviate your symptoms when entering an environment with loud noises.

Ear Wax Buildup

A normal amount of ear wax is perfectly natural and, in fact, beneficial for the health of your ears. Ear wax, made of proteins, skin particles, and fatty acids, protects your inner ear from bacteria, dust, and other particles. Our bodies naturally produce ear wax, but if your glands create too much, it can lead to a blockage within the ear canal.

This stuffed ear wax buildup can cause or worsen tinnitus symptoms. Luckily, if this is the source of your tinnitus, treatments are available. A doctor or audiologist can drain excessive ear wax from your ear canal, which, in some cases, this procedure quickly remedies the ringing in your ears.

Stress and Anxiety

Higher levels of stress or anxiety often amplify the sounds of tinnitus, leading to additional stress. However, many patients find reprieve from their tinnitus symptoms by managing their stress and anxiety. Walking, yoga, and meditation are effective relaxation methods for combating the daily effects of tinnitus.

Sleep Deprivation

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep, and medical research has shown the many benefits of a healthy sleep schedule. Lack of sleep and tinnitus can become a vicious cycle. Tinnitus often causes anxiety and restlessness, preventing you from getting comfortable at night. As days go by, this lack of sleep worsens your tinnitus symptoms and the cycle continues. In addition to worsening tinnitus, sleep deprivation can lead to memory issues, mood changes, high blood pressure, and an even higher risk of heart disease.

Medications and Tinnitus

Research has shown that some prescription medications can worsen tinnitus symptoms. If you take certain antibiotics, such as neomycin, erythromycin, vancomycin, or polymyxin B, and are experiencing tinnitus, you may want to discuss alternatives with your doctor. Specific cancer medications, water pills, antidepressants, and aspirin in high doses have also been linked to tinnitus.

Of course, you should always talk to a medical professional before changing your prescription routine or dosages. If a doctor agrees that you can stop taking one or all of these medications, which is the source of your tinnitus, the symptoms may dissipate.


Years of research have identified the many negative effects of smoking tobacco, including higher risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and various respiratory diseases. However, many may not realize that smoking also increases the severity of tinnitus symptoms. How so? When you smoke cigarettes, your blood vessels narrow, which not only increases your blood pressure but also reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the cells in your ears. This lack of oxygen flow can trigger and amplify tinnitus for many people.


Drinking alcohol of any kind, whether it’s wine, beer, or liquor, can worsen tinnitus. In contrast to smoking, drinking alcohol causes your blood vessels to relax and expand. When this occurs, blood flow increases throughout the body, including your ears, which can make your tinnitus worse. While alcohol-induced tinnitus is generally short-lived, excessive drinking over a long period of time can result in a permanent form of this hearing condition.


When you begin feeling that itchy throat, watery eyes, and constant sneezing, we all know what time of the year it is. Seasonal allergies, which are frustrating enough on their own, have been linked to more severe tinnitus symptoms. When allergies attack, your body produces antibodies that release histamine, which is the cause of your itchy throat and runny nose. Then, when mucus builds up, the drainage passage for the middle ear becomes obstructed and can lead to hearing issues, including tinnitus.

Conclusion- What Kinds of Things Make Tinnitus Worse?

Tinnitus is a challenge for millions of individuals, and it can lead to anxiety and stress and simply make every day a struggle. But don’t lose hope. Tinnitus is very treatable, and doctors like those at Sound Relief who specialize in Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) can provide relief.

If you’re experiencing a rushing, buzzing, ringing, or roaring in your ears, don’t wait any longer to seek help and take back your life. Take our tinnitus impact survey today to determine the severity of your tinnitus, which can then help our audiologists develop a personalized treatment plan.

If you’re ready to take control of your tinnitus, schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 720-344-7600.

At Sound Relief Tinnitus & Hearing Center, we provide hope and help to those living with tinnitus and other hearing health issues. Our patients are at the center of everything we do, and we strive to guide them to overcome their challenges by delivering innovative and compassionate healthcare.

Dr. Julie Prutsman, owner of this family-owned practice, has expanded to 9 locations across Colorado and Arizona. In 2012, she founded Sound Relief in her hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado and continues to foster their mission through mentorship of the brightest minds in the field of Audiology.