For people with tinnitus, which features chronic ringing, buzzing, hissing or clicking in the head and ears, poor sleep makes it even more difficult to cope with the condition, researchers have found.
The study included 117 tinnitus patients treated at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit between 2009 and 2011. The more severe the patients' insomnia, the greater their complaints about their tinnitus symptoms and the worse their emotional distress, the findings showed.
"Tinnitus involves [mental], emotional and psycho-physiological processes, which can result in an increase in a patient's distress," study co-author Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, chairwoman of the hospital's ear, nose and throat department, said in a Henry Ford Health System news release. "Sleep complaints, including insomnia, in these patients may result in a decrease in their tolerance to tinnitus."
"Treating patients with tinnitus is challenging," Yaremchuk said. "A chronic tinnitus patient presents a challenging clinical picture that may include anxiety, depression, annoyance or self-reported emotional distress. And one of the most frequent self-reported complaints of tinnitus patients is 'getting to sleep.'"
The researchers said their study also offers further proof that treatment of insomnia in patients with tinnitus may reduce tinnitus symptoms' severity.
More than 36 million Americans have tinnitus. The exact cause is not known, but several conditions have been found to trigger or worsen tinnitus, including exposure to loud noises, wax build-up in the ears, sinus or ear infections, head and neck injuries, and disorders such as Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
The findings were presented at the recent Combined Otolaryngological Spring Meetings in San Diego, Calif. The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.