What Is That Ringing In My Ears?!?
It’s called Tinnitus. Tinnitus is the experience of hearing a sound (such as ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing, swooshing, and clicking) in the absence of an actual, external noise. It is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S. and affects approximately 15% of the general population. Tinnitus can be devastating and burdensome to those who suffer from it. Proper diagnosis by trained audiologists and other hearing health professionals is recommended.
The Burden Of Tinnitus On Daily Living
Tinnitus is not a psychological condition rather it is most often a function of the brain’s response to damage in the auditory system. However, tinnitus can be debilitating condition that impacts emotional, cognitive, occupational, and social functioning. Common experiences amongst individuals with tinnitus are: generalized distress, depression, anxiety, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, irritability or low frustration tolerance, and poor concentration. Based on a 2014 survey conducted by the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), those who suffer most frequently endorse sleep disturbance, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating. In addition, the loud ringing (or other noise) of tinnitus can make communication and social situations quite challenging causing one to isolate from others.
How Does Psychotherapy Help With Tinnitus?
While psychotherapy cannot address the underlying condition causing tinnitus, it can help someone learn to live with tinnitus better and reduce its impact on their life. In fact, some literature suggests that patients’ qualification of tinnitus as a minor versus a major issue is determined by how much it impacts their lives rather than how loud it is. (Behavioral Therapies. (2016, August 21). Retrieved from http://www.ata.org/managing-your-tinnitus/treatment-options/behavioral-therapies)
Behavioral therapies aim to change a patient’s relationship to their tinnitus. Thus, reducing psychological and emotional distress. Research supporting the effectiveness of these strategies in reducing tinnitus impairment as well as co-morbid symptoms of depression and anxiety are robust. In therapy, patients are taught to observe their experience of tinnitus and acknowledge the ways in which their lives are dictated by efforts to avoid it. Mindfulness and exposure-based strategies facilitate acceptance of tinnitus. Patients are simultaneously taught coping skills, relaxation strategies, and cognitive techniques to promote change towards their personal goals. Overall, the goal of treatment is to help tinnitus sufferers adapt and learn how to live with their condition thus minimizing its burden on their emotional and social well-being.
RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
The American Tinnitus Association website has information about tinnitus and treatment options. For proper diagnosis of tinnitus, please seek evaluation by a hearing health professional.
If you want to learn more about how you or your loved one can ease the burden on tinnitus with psychotherapy, please contact me at 919.415.1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather Bergida Thurston, PhD, PLLC