There is little evidence to show that massage can be effective at treating tinnitus. However, it can help treat some factors that can aggravate tinnitus, such as stress and jaw tightness.

Tinnitus is an ongoing ringing in the ears that only the individual can hear. It does not have a cure.

However, some methods are available for helping a person reduce the effect of tinnitus on daily living, including stress reduction, therapy techniques, and noise masking. Some clinics offer a massage to help people with tinnitus.

This article looks at whether massage affects tinnitus symptoms and where people with tinnitus can turn for symptom relief.

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No evidence directly shows how massage therapy can help people manage tinnitus. However, there are a few ways that massage may support a person with tinnitus and help minimize the condition’s impact.

Stress reduction

Massage may not physically address tinnitus, but it might help promote relaxation, soothe the nervous system, and manage stress. Stress can make tinnitus worse.

One 2023 research review suggested that stress and constant exposure to loud noises are connected to tinnitus.

One of the main networks through which the brain communicates with the hormone-producing glands is the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, which has direct links to how the body responds to stress. The stress response may be weaker or delayed in people with tinnitus, and stress can also affect certain parts of the ear.

One 2014 study found that 25% of people linked tinnitus severity to chronic stress, although not the duration they had been experiencing stress.

People who feel that massages relax them may find that they also help manage tinnitus or make it less disruptive. They can either visit a massage therapist or use a foam roller to self-massage at home.

Learn about pressure points to reduce anxiety.

Managing jaw or neck tightness

Massage may help relieve muscle tension in the neck that is making tinnitus worse. Research suggests there is a link between musculoskeletal issues to the jaw and tinnitus. This might involve:

  • muscle tension in the neck
  • jaw clenching
  • tooth clenching
  • previous injuries

A doctor may ask someone with tinnitus to tighten specific muscles or move the jaw and neck. Seeing how these movements affect the ringing sounds can help them assess whether the neck muscles interact with tinnitus.

Research from 2015 linked head and neck muscle tenderness to tinnitus symptoms, though tinnitus will affect everyone in different ways.

Learn about jaw tension and anxiety.

Tinnitus management focuses on four critical factors, which are:

  • stress management
  • sleep improvement
  • cognitive therapy
  • masking the sound of tinnitus

However, the official American Academy of Otolaryngology treatment guidelines accept that no treatment method for tinnitus has high quality evidence that supports it. Managing tinnitus often involves balancing different treatments and using trial and error to find which work for the individual.

Stress management

Stress and anxiety can make tinnitus worse. By managing stress through techniques like deep breathing exercises, it may be possible to stop tinnitus from worsening. Stress management techniques might include:

  • deep breathing
  • yoga, which reduced stress and perceived symptoms of tinnitus in a 2018 study, though the cohort was small
  • mindfulness meditation, which reduced tinnitus severity, disability, depression, and anxiety in a 2017 study
  • biofeedback, which has shown promising results in helping people with tinnitus manage tinnitus-linked brain activity, although further research is necessary

Massage therapy may be helpful for people with tinnitus as part of stress management.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

This type of talk therapy can help people process and alter their emotional response to tinnitus.

While it does not affect the intensity or duration of the sound, a 2020 review of 28 trials found that it might be moderately effective in improving quality of life for people with tinnitus.

Sound therapy

Sound masking for tinnitus involves “drowning out” the ringing with phone apps and helping the brain adjust to tinnitus as a neutral rather than invasive sound. It may help suppress the effects of tinnitus in some individuals, according to research from 2020. Still, research is mixed on whether it is effective and how to apply the treatment in clinical settings.

If tinnitus causes hearing loss, a doctor may advise people with tinnitus on the possible benefits of getting hearing aids. However, insurance rarely covers these, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

Some hearing aids also provide built-in sound-masking technology to help tinnitus directly.

Sleep improvement

Tinnitus can affect sleep quality in some people. Measures to improve sleep hygiene, like melatonin supplements, decreased tinnitus intensity and improved sleep quality in a small 2016 study.

A 2022 review found that avoiding noise overexposure at bedtime and maintaining good sleep hygiene habits might reduce the risk of developing constant tinnitus.

Learn about natural remedies for tinnitus.

Sometimes, tinnitus can be a temporary response to loud noises, such as construction work or being at a concert. This usually resolves without management. People might benefit from speaking with a doctor if:

  • They have consistent tinnitus for 6 months or longer.
  • Tinnitus affects their quality of life by interfering with sleep, work, or other factors.
  • They have another health concern, like hearing loss, that might contribute to tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a consistent ringing in the ears that may affect a person’s quality of life. Massage therapy may help manage stress, a known factor that can worsen tinnitus. It might also help relieve muscle tension in the neck if a doctor identifies this as a potential contributor to tinnitus severity.

Treatment for tinnitus involves trial and error, as no evidence backs a single approach. Instead, multiple treatments might be necessary to manage stress and mental health, promote good sleep hygiene habits, and soften the ringing sound. Speak with a doctor if tinnitus lasts more than 6 months or affects daily function.