Does Your Tinnitus Worsen in the Winter?

My tinnitus spiked this weekend in my left ear offering a steady buzz like an electrical hum, accompanied by a reduction in my hearing and some dizziness. At first I wondered if my hearing aid was making the sound, but when I removed it, the disturbance grew louder since it was no longer obscured by ambient noise. I knew then that the sound was of my own invention — taking up unwanted residence in my ears and mind. Meditation usually helps me keep my tinnitus under control, but sometimes pesky noise still breaks through.

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I looked back at several of my other posts on tinnitus and realized that many of the ones that describe a flare up in ringing or vertigo were written in the winter, particularly in the transition to the colder months. I began wondering if the severity of my tinnitus was seasonal, fueled by a return to cooler temperatures, changes in barometric pressure and humidity levels, and my overall activity and happiness levels.

I did some digging and found a research study that supports the idea of seasonality in tinnitus. Published in 2015 by European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, it examined the google search history for the word “tinnitus” and found seasonal effects in several countries. The study concluded, “Our findings indicate that there are significant seasonal trends for Internet search queries for tinnitus, with a zenith in winter months.” Perhaps this spike in searches means more people suffer with tinnitus in colder weather.

This makes sense since many of the things associated with winter are also linked to tinnitus.

1. Colds and flu: The increased congestion and sinus pressure that accompanies a head cold often takes a toll on my hearing. With fewer ambient sounds getting through, my tinnitus is probably more noticeable.

2. Frigid weather: When temperatures drop, your ears produce more wax, perhaps as a way of protecting their inner workings from the cold. Excess wax can block the ear canal, muffling your hearing and making the ringing more noticeable. Keeping your ears warm with earmuffs when out in the weather may help prevent this.

3. Less physical activity: I practice yoga all winter, but I don’t take as many walks as I do in warmer times of the year. I imagine most people are more sedentary in the cold. Reduced activity levels can lead to higher blood pressure, which is sometimes associated with tinnitus.

4. More coffee: It is hard to wake up when the sky is still dark in the morning, which may lead to an increase in caffeine consumption. Higher caffeine intake is often thought to exacerbate tinnitus.

5. Stress and depression: Many people suffer from seasonal depression in the winter due to more limited sun exposure. Stress can also spike as work and school commitments increase compared to the more care-free days of summer. The demands of the holiday season can add to this feeling for some. Stress and depression are highly linked to tinnitus, although it is debatable which one causes the other.

To combat my recent tinnitus spike, I have been working to stay warm, calm and away from germs. I certainly don’t want a head cold on top of it all! Soft background music is helping me drown out the buzz during the day and deep breathing is helping me fall asleep. I hope that like in the past, this will be a temporary setback.

Readers, does your tinnitus spike in the winter?

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14 thoughts on “Does Your Tinnitus Worsen in the Winter?

  1. Talk about a timely blog! I was all ready to call my ENT today because of the ‘whirring’ sound I’ve been getting over the past week in my left ear. I was thinking it had something to do with the wicked sinus infection I had 3 weeks ago. I had very red eyes, my eyes were closing up partially and the sinuses were all puffy under my eyes. A week of prednisone got rid of it, but it got me thinking that the infection caused something in my ears. I never knew seasonality was a possible trigger as well. Thanks Shari for the education.

    Mike

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  2. Yes it is much worse for me in the winter time. But like you said as long as I can keep active I can keep it down. But right now I have a cold and it is really running me nuts with the white noise.

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  3. Hmm, interesting blog. Can’t say that I’ve noticed so much in winter. When I first started wearing hearing aids years back I noticed almost immediately how they helped with my tinnitus straight away during the day time. I also noticed just how much worse my tinnitus seemed as soon as took them out on a night.

    Still do

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  4. I’d like to add another cause to the list of increased tinnitus and hearing issues , menopause (it only applies for women of course ) ! Being a woman in her 50s is one rough ride with hearing loss . I’ve had bouts of vertigo and dizziness that I could barely walk , along with diminished hearing , intolerance to loud noise and yes , increased tinnitus. Not fun !

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  5. This is so very true! I always notice my tinnitus more when the weather starts changing, just as I do during summer storms. And I have noticed it within the last week as we have had a big drop into cold! My dad experiences the same.
    Unfortunately I will be without my aids for a short time while they are sent off for routine maintenance, etc…next week. I know I will notice it during the holiday times of gathering with family (and ours tends to get super chatty!). I’ll just have to keep in mind my “cheats” that help in conversation.

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  6. I would love to hear about other people who can not stand the sound of music. I have played the piano all my life and now there is no way I can stand it. I take my aids out ..put in swimming plugs and hear no sound. I play away just to exercise my fingers.

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