What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is characterized by the perception of noise or ringing in the ears with no external sound source causing it. It can vary in intensity from a mild annoyance to a severe disruption of daily life.
I, personally, have had, and still have, tinnitus. Fortunately, mine is usually mild and I’m able to ignore it and move on from it.
My patients are typically not that lucky. Their discomfort is often constant and it affects them severely.
Tinnitus can be caused by:
- loud noises
- hearing loss
- other medical conditions
- certain medications
- physical trauma
All of my patients are evaluated by their clinician prior to my seeing them.
Tinnitus can cause:
- Emotional distress
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Social isolation
Common treatment options include:
- Hearing aids
- Sound-masking devices
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
- This combines white noise machines and smartphone apps to help mask the tinnitus, making it less bothersome.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- This helps patients gain control over their anxiety and depression that may be caused by the tinnitus.
- These include anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications
- Lifestyle changes
- This would include avoiding loud noises
When I treat patients with tinnitus, I incorporate medical hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
To me, the problem with using external devices, or medications, is that they cause patients to depend on an external locus of control, instead of their own internal locus of control. That is, someone or something else is being used to control the symptom and/or anxiety, instead of harnessing the power of their own minds.
Furthermore, avoiding different situations only reinforces peoples’ anxiety, giving them the message that they can’t handle being in those settings.
It’s no wonder that patients experience anxiety when they have tinnitus. Who wouldn’t??
They think things like:
- Will this ever go away?
- What if it gets worse?
- What if it flares up when I’m at work?
This makes them focus on the symptom even more, and what you focus on, you amplify! This makes the problem even worse!
It’s interesting: as I am writing this, my own tinnitus is currently louder than it has been for a long time. This fortifies what I just wrote: What you focus on, you amplify!
I ask my patients what is getting in the way of their life the most?
- The symptom?
- The anxiety?
- The depression?
And then we work on their number one issue, first. Often, once that is under control, the others melt away. And, if not, then we will work on the next problem.