Why Does Tinnitus Get Louder Sometimes?

Tinnitus is the name that we use to describe hearing sounds that are not caused by noises happening in the outside world. Tinnitus can sound like:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Hissing
  • Throbbing
  • Music or Singing

So, Why Does Tinnitus’s Sound Increase Sometimes?

Tinnitus getting louder can be disruptive to your day and it can be very alarming. More often than not an increased volume of the sounds associated with tinnitus is nothing to worry about but the causes do vary enormously, they can include:

1. Loud Noises- Loud noises such as machinery and music can make tinnitus worse both short and long term. The good news is that a lot of the time this cause is avoidable by wearing ear defenders or moving away from the epicentre of the sound.

2. Medicine- Taking certain medicines can also make tinnitus worse. These medicines can include antibiotics, antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cancer drugs, diuretics, and high doses of aspirin. Most of the time when you stop taking said medicines your increased levels of tinnitus will disappear however, it is important to never just stop taking medication without discussing this with your doctor first.

3. Stress- We all know that your mental health and physical health are strongly connected. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that stress can lead to increased tinnitus. The best way to combat this cause is simply to learn techniques to reduce stress. These could include yoga, getting a nice massage, acupuncture or breathing techniques. If stress is having a negative impact on your life, it could be a good idea to discuss this with a doctor.

4. Jaw Problems- Jaw problems are a less well-known cause of worsening tinnitus. Your Jaw shares nerves and ligaments with your middle ear so therefore the two are directly connected. If you are also having problems with your jaw, it may be a good idea to see a dentist, oral surgeon, or otolaryngologist as they can treat you and aim to stop the ringing from getting any worse.

5. Ear Wax- Ear wax is there to protect you, which is great however, it can also build up and cause hearing problems such as increased tinnitus. Luckily, this is a quick fix problem which can be resolved by seeing your doctor and asking them to remove it for you. It is important that you do not try and remove it yourself as this can be extremely dangerous.

6. Infections- For approximately a week after having a cold tinnitus will often increase. If it lasts longer than a week it could be a sign of an ear or sinus infection.

7. Allergies- When allergies such as hay fever increase there is a good chance that your tinnitus will increase with it. There are a few ways to go about resolving this issue including trying allergy medication or changing the one that you are currently on. Before making any decisions regarding allergies or medication it is important to consult with your doctor.

8. Blood Pressure-Interestingly, both high and low blood pressure can cause your tinnitus to increase. If you know that you suffer with either of these things it may be a good idea to keep an eye on it at home to see if blood pressure and tinnitus correlate to each other in your case. If your blood pressure is frequently too high or too low, you should see your doctor.

9. Sleep Problems- Disturbed sleep and a lack of sleep can see a rise in your tinnitus. This is an easy one to slowly work on at home, start by trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Ways of improving your sleep can include not eating just before bed and using no technology after a certain time.

10. Migraines- Migraines and ringing in ears are known to go hand in hand. Having a migraine can easily make tinnitus worse especially if it is making you lose sleep or increasing your stress levels. So, if you are experiencing this evil combination, start by trying to defeat the migraine!

11. Alcohol- Drinking is known to make tinnitus worse. One of the main reasons for this link is once again blood pressure. Drinking alcohol increases your blood pressure and so can make tinnitus worse. An important step to improving your tinnitus could be to cut back on drinking.

12. Smoking- There is a big connection between smoking and tinnitus. Smoking can cause the blood vessels that are responsible for bringing oxygen to your ears to narrow. It is also another cause for your blood pressure increasing.

13. Caffeine- Caffeine is a part of many people’s daily lives however it increases blood pressure which can cause increased tinnitus. Try cutting back on caffeinated drinks and seeing if this makes any difference.

14. Depression and Anxiety- There is a big link between mental health problems and tinnitus, depression and anxiety can cause tinnitus to get worse and vice versa.  If you think that you may also be suffering with your mental health, is it important to speak with someone who can help.

15. Other Conditions- Countless other conditions can also cause your tinnitus to worsen, these can include (but are by no means limited to) thyroid issues, anaemia, autoimmune conditions, and structural problems with your inner ear.

Final Thoughts

Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition to live with especially when you are experiencing a flair up. The reasons for worsening tinnitus can vary drastically from an ear infection, to high blood pressure, to mental health issues.

The wide range of possible causes can make it like a game of trial and error trying to find out which one is the cause for you however swapping things out and working on possible triggers one at a time is the only real way to find the cause and resolve it. 

Many of the reasons for increased tinnitus are minor and can be resolved without interference such as, drinking too much caffeine or drinking a little too much alcohol. However, some causes may require you to see your doctor for further advice or medication changes.