Are Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears) and Sleep Apnea Linked?

Tinnitus is a medical condition described as a persistent ringing in the ears.

It is further described as “perception of a sound in the head without an external source”.  Approximately 23 million have experienced this problem for longer than three months at a time. This “condition” has a major adverse impact on the quality of an adult’s daily life such as resulting poor concentration levels, bad attitude, low awareness to self and others, lowered work quality, etc..


If you have ever played loud music in your car or from your earphones and your ears are left ringing, this is similar to tinnitus.

Although ringing is the most common complaint, some report hearing clicking, roaring, hissing, or buzzing. This might affect one ear or both.

Pitch and loudness also vary. Moreover, the overall sound can be soft or loud, high pitched or low pitched. The previously described indicates the auditory system is working improperly.  Although this may seem trivial, people suffer this on a daily basis.

Additionally, as research continues, no definitive cause has been identified.  Some causes have been identified, like old age noise induced hearing loss, ear wax buildup, sinus infections, hormonal changes in women and to a lesser degree, brain tumors. Another mystery is some individuals develop tinnitus for no obvious reason.  So, unfortunately, this scenario is difficult to discover the exact cause of tinnitus.


How Does Tinnitus Relate to Sleep Apnea?

Tinnitus impacts the quality of sleep in 50-60% of people afflicted with a sleep disorder, thereby proving a high correlation between tinnitus, insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

Tinnitus when combined with a sleep issue sadly represents a vicious circle.  This means people with ringing in the ears experience difficulty sleeping, thus diminishing the quality of their sleep. This combination leads to continuous sleep deprivation and signs of sleep apnea, which includes daytime sleepiness, lack of focus, irritability and other health issues, including insomnia.

According to a recent study via Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, insomnia negatively impacts tinnitus, worsening the functional and emotional toll on anyone sustaining this combination.

Study co-author Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, M.D., Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford, adds, “Tinnitus involves cognitive, emotional, and psycho-physiological processes, which can result in an increase in a patient’s distress. Sleep complaints, including insomnia, in these patients, may result in a decrease in their tolerance to the condition.” 

Finally, some people report some level of success in reducing tinnitus by utilizing CPAP therapy, however, there is little research supporting the topic.  As a result, with the lack of academic research at large, online sleep apnea and tinnitus forums are a good way to understand potential solutions and new treatment options.  Always speak to your doctor prior to any treatment option.  Most importantly, understand knowledge is power.

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Re-Edited by Bill Bistak B Sc.,SEO/SEM Spc, CRT

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