Tinnitus affects 50 million people in the US. Most people find their tinnitus not affecting their lifestyle, but for close to 15 million their tinnitus is quite bothersome and for 1 to 2 million people, tinnitus can be very disabling, to the point of being unable to carry on satisfactory life.
Is There A Cure For Tinnitus?
As of now, we do not have a “magic curable pill.” What I mean is, at the present time, there is no medical cure for tinnitus that would remove all the unwanted tinnitus sounds which are created by the brain.
There are, however, many viable options available to manage tinnitus, to help people to return to their desirable life.
The other good news is that tinnitus is usually not indicative of a serious medical issue.
Our Natural Reaction To Tinnitus
Tinnitus does not lead to an unhealthy outcome unless people become very, very concerned about it. In general, the principle of worrying about something leads to worrying more about it. Thus, the more we worry about tinnitus the more we worry about tinnitus.
Also, it’s very important to understand how we label our emotions and what kind of emotions become associated with tinnitus.
If we label the sound of tinnitus negatively, then we just reinforce the negativity of the event that is bothersome to us. Therefore, negativity reinforces reactivity, which in turn amplifies negativity and so on creating a vicious loop.
So, one of our goals when treating tinnitus is to change people’s body and mind reactivity to it.
Our body reactivities represent our emotional inner subconscious feelings about this event. Our brain is pretty smart at reading the body’s negative messages and necessitates the brain to become concerned about this.
Inadvertently, tinnitus becomes a chronic event, and the brain sets up a negative tinnitus monitoring loop – the reactivity reinforces the negativity, and the negativity reinforces reactivity and so on.
Tools For Treating Tinnitus
Different tinnitus practitioners use different tools to help people alter the way they respond to their tinnitus, but they usually apply two main components.
One of the tools used is specialized counseling or brain retraining – convincing your “brain” of the irrelevancy of the tinnitus sound and to convince your “brain” of all the other life sounds and events which are so much more important to pay attention to.
The other component is the use of special devices that generate sounds at certain frequencies. They allow the tinnitus patient to become less aware of their own tinnitus sound and thus reducing the need to continue to monitor their own tinnitus. As a result, tinnitus becomes less “visible” and therefore more acceptable.
At AVI we use both, in parallel modalities; the “software” component and the “hardware” component.
1. The Software Component = Brain Retraining
Close to 20 years ago I developed tinnitus treatment program (CHaTT – Cognitive Habituation Tinnitus Therapy) which I have been teaching for the past 10 years to other professional people, nationally and internationally, on how to change the brain’s reactivity to tinnitus and various sound sensitivity disorders. Basically, there are ways of redirecting your brain by switching the brain’s “tinnitus concern tracks” and relaying them onto a different, non “tinnitus concern path”.
Your recalibrated brain will automatically ignore listening to tinnitus and start doing something different rather than listen to tinnitus – something “more useful” than listening and monitoring tinnitus.
This has had very successful outcomes when taught by professional people who are trained to work with people who have tinnitus.
2. Sound-Generating Devices
Some hearing aids have an additional sound generating feature, or it can be just a device that generates special sounds. Incidentally, the sound delivery system was also invented by me.
Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
A large group of people who have tinnitus also have a hearing loss, so if this is the case, we recommend hearing aids to enable the person’s ability to hear environmental sounds better. Better hearing relieves the focus on hearing the internal tinnitus sound, which becomes secondary and reduces the associated stress to hear better.
Hearing aids take people out of the dark auditory room they lived in and put them into a brighter space. Whereas in the “dark” auditory quiet room all they could hear was the tinnitus, now they can hear so much more.
It’s like living in a dark room with a single candlelight, all you see is that candle; when you move into a brighter space, you now can see the candle and other sights as well. Your focus has spread out.
Next Steps If You Have Tinnitus
Obviously, treating tinnitus is a little bit more complicated than this, but I hope that I’ve explained the basic principles behind what goes into helping people live with the sound of tinnitus.
We want to help you move out of living with a high level of discomfort to one of not having it affect your daily life.
If you are experiencing challenges with tinnitus, the first step is to schedule a hearing assessment to determine the cause. Sometimes the cause can be easily remedied – such as earwax in your ear canal, which we can remove.
We are looking forward to helping relieve your tinnitus.