How Anxiety Affects Hearing

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 10, 2020

How Anxiety Affects Hearing

Your ears and your hearing are surprisingly sensitive to changes in you body, brain and environment. Much like the way that your ears pop and plug when you go up or down hills or travel in an aeroplane, changes in your body's stasis can cause your hearing and ears to feel different at certain times.

Since anxiety is a condition that affects the body as well as the mind, it should be no surprise that anxiety also can affect your hearing. But how? We'll explore that question in this article.

Issues That Affect Hearing

Some symptoms of anxiety represent real physiological changes in the way your body reacts to stress. Others are perceived changes - meaning that your symptoms aren't caused by any physical issue, but rather the way that your mind interprets information.

There are many different issues related to anxiety that affect hearing. These include:

  • Impaired Concentration Probably the most common issue is difficulty focusing on sound or conversation. During intense anxiety, when the brain feels like it is moving a mile a minute, it's not uncommon to find yourself "zoning out" or getting lost in your thoughts. As a result, you may find yourself unable to pay attention to the world around you. That means that you may not be able to hear everything someone says while talking to you. It's not that you're not hearing it. Instead, your anxiety is stopping you from being able to concentrate enough to actually take in that information.
  • Noticing Unusual Sounds Anxiety also makes you more prone to feeling "on edge," and that means that you may start noticing noises that you otherwise might not have paid any attention to. For example, those with anxiety often hear every little creak, bump, etc., and in some cases these noises can create more anxiety.
  • Auditory Hallucinations While rare, some people with anxiety report auditory hallucinations. Hearing voices is incredibly rare, and may be the sign of another issue. But some people may hear pops, or strange noises that no one else hears. Others may also hear what they think is a voice, such as someone saying their name when it's not said. Researchers are not entirely sure why these might be linked to anxiety; but it’s likely that it has something to do with the way in which anxiety interferes with your brain’s ability to process information.
  • Tinnitus Tinnitus is a chronic ringing of the ears that becomes more common as you age. Anxiety doesn't create tinnitus, but research has shown that anxiety may increases the "loudness" of the ringing, or make you more prone to being distressed by loud ringing. Furthermore, being anxious might make you more sensitive to the sound, so you would be more prone to noticing it.

How to Stop Hearing Problems From Anxiety

There isn't a direct way to address the hearing issues that are linked to anxiety. However, this potentially distressing symptom can be addressed indirectly. How? By treating your underlying anxiety, you’re less likely to experience and be affected by symptoms related to your hearing. Psychotherapy is one way of treating your anxiety, although this can also be treated by means of medication. Take the necessary steps today to start addressing your underlying anxiety and stand to benefit from an improved quality of life.

Questions? Comments?

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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