We see plenty of people who have been distressed by tinnitus and all too often the advice that they’ve been given is along the lines of ‘there’s nothing that we can do about it; you just have to get used to it’. Not very helpful, and not quite true. While in many cases tinnitus can’t be cured, there are several things that can be done to help the problems caused by tinnitus.
Paula Appleton, Counselling Psychologist, describes the techniques that have had the best outcomes below.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound in one ear, both ears or in the head. Some people describe the noise as ringing, hissing, roaring or humming and sometimes even a clicking or a musical noise. Tinnitus is common and affects around 10-14% of adults in the UK. It affects people of all ages including children, however research has found this to be more common in people aged over 60.
Tinnitus and how it can affect people
Tinnitus can affect people in different ways. Some people who have tinnitus find that they are not troubled by it and have learnt quickly to cope and find that it is not too bothersome for them. However for some people they find that tinnitus has a huge impact on their quality of life. It may affect their sleep patterns, they become stressed, anxious and for some it may led to depression due to what they feel is a lack of control over the tinnitus.
Tinnitus counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
These techniques provide you with information about your tinnitus so you have a better understanding of it, and this to can also help to alleviate your fears. You will feel better equipped to manage your tinnitus effectively using simple techniques.
CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle.
CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. We will work on strategies to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.
If you can be taught coping techniques to deal with negative thoughts and feelings, this in turn can help you become more positive. CBT can help you change the way you think about your tinnitus and help you to feel more in control. Therefore reducing the distress so that you can start to tolerate the noises and eventually they become less noticeable (habituation).
In CBT you are normally asked to keep a diary of the times you find the tinnitus is most annoying or distressing. We can then look at the reasons behind your strong reactions to tinnitus along with your thoughts and feelings. You would also be encouraged look at different ways of doings things, to challenge negative thought patterns and find the best way forward to manage your tinnitus
Sometimes tinnitus may seem louder when you are in a quiet environment. Sound therapy works by distracting your brain from paying attention to the tinnitus. Audio books are also a nice way to relax but also helps the brain to not listen in to the tinnitus. If you have a hearing loss as well as tinnitus, treating the hearing loss with hearing aids is a great way to introduce sound therapy and it may be that hearing aids which include tinnitus therapy sounds are chosen.
Relaxation and visualisation
People have said that they notice their tinnitus more when they are feeling tired, stressed or worried. Relaxation and visualisation can help you manage your stress levels. As you start to become calmer and more relaxed, you may find it easier to manage your tinnitus. Learning relaxation and visualisation techniques is a very portable item to carry with you in your tinnitus toolbox and is a brilliant technique to help with sleeplessness.
Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation which involves thinking of the present and the here and now. To be in tune with your own thoughts and feelings and also the world around you. Practising mindfulness has shown to have a positive effect on tinnitus. It does not change the nature of the tinnitus but hopefully it should help change the way you feel about your tinnitus in to a more positive outlook. It may help you recognise the signs of stress and anxiety earlier and therefore help you cope better with them.
If you know anybody who is struggling to manage tinnitus, please feel free to book an appointment with Paula at our Upminster office. You can call for an appointment on 01708 259863.