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  • Tinnitus CBT

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    Tinnitus occurs to the consistent ringing, humming, buzzing, or other noise sensations in one or both ears. Research shows that upwards of 20% of people in the US experience tinnitus at some point in their lives. It’s often caused by an underlying condition, like hearing loss, ear canal blockage, ear injuries, and certain autoimmune diseases.

    The symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to downright distressing. People who experience chronic tinnitus may hear the sound all the time, and it may be so loud that it drowns out other external sounds.

    If you have tinnitus, you may be at a heightened risk for mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Tinnitus also coincides with intense emotional reactions, such as anger, fear, loneliness, and restlessness. In serious cases, tinnitus can cause suicidal thoughts.

    While there isn’t a cure, cognitive behavioral treatments, such as CBT, can help improve your symptoms and quality of life. Here’s what you need to know.

    What to Expect in Tinnitus CBT

    Tinnitus often creates a vicious cycle of self-defeating, negative thoughts, distressing emotions, and unwanted behavioral responses.

    Consider the following situation. When you hear that familiar ringing sensation, what thoughts do you experience? Maybe you think to yourself, This is unbearable. I can’t deal! I’m going to be dealing with this forever!

    When you experience those intense thoughts, how do you feel? Probably angry or scared. And how do you respond? Maybe you withdraw from others, distract yourself with drugs or alcohol, or continue panicking about the future.

    CBT focuses on this cycle and raises awareness to the patterns and beliefs you hold about your experience. This therapy is evidence-based. The American Academy of Audiology, American Speech-language-Hearing Association, and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation all endorse CBT for tinnitus treatment.

    Understanding How Negative Thoughts Perpetuate Tinnitus Distress

    Think about the negative thoughts you hold about your tinnitus. Maybe they include:

    • “I’ll never be able to deal with my tinnitus.”
    • “This is ruining my life.”
    • “Nobody can understand what I’m going through right now.”
    • “My tinnitus is so embarrassing.”

    CBT encourages you to evaluate and challenge those thoughts. It isn’t about denying how you feel or downplaying your experiences. Instead, it’s about exploring alternative beliefs that help you feel better about your situation. This is crucial for tinnitus management.

    Retraining How Your Brain Processes Tinnitus

    When you experience tinnitus distress, it’s because your brain has coded that something dangerous and threatening is occurring. Therefore, your emotional reactions aren’t necessarily about the sound- they’re about how your brain perceives the sound.

    When you experience tinnitus distress, it’s because your brain has coded that something dangerous and threatening is occurring. Therefore, your emotional reactions aren’t necessarily about the sound- they’re about how your brain perceives the sound.

    Exposing yourself to the tinnitus sound (in a safe therapy environment) can help. The coupling of imagery techniques, cognitive skills, and relaxation training help the brain develop new neural pathways for coding tinnitus sounds.

    In other words, cognitive restructuring helps retrain the brain. When you can understand your beliefs and emotions around tinnitus, your brain learns that tinnitus sound isn’t inherently problematic. This helps with habituation. So while there isn’t a cure for tinnitus, cognitive therapy can improve your emotional reactions, thereby reducing levels of severe distress.

    Furthermore, while CBT doesn’t “take away” chronic tinnitus, it can change how you perceive your experience. And because the mind and body are so interconnected, altering tinnitus perception can significantly improve your mental state. You may even reach a point where the brain can ignore tinnitus altogether.

    Developing Healthier Coping Skills for Tinnitus-Related Distress

    CBT for tinnitus is dynamic and collaborative. Treatment typically consists of weekly sessions, and you’ll work closely with your therapist to develop an appropriate care plan.

    Coping skills often include a combination of direct lifestyle changes (seeking social support, getting enough sleep, prioritizing stress management) along with self-esteem goals (improving confidence, strengthening your support system, validating your needs).

    CBT is goal-oriented and focused. We will together to reduce your problematic symptoms. It’s important that you feel better about your situation and your life. Likewise, even after therapy concludes, you will have enough tools and awareness to continue managing the psychological aspects of your tinnitus.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Tinnitus in Illinois

    There’s no doubt that living with tinnitus can be frustrating.

    Your feelings and stress are entirely valid. However, CBT integrates concepts of gradual exposure, shifting into positive thoughts, and relaxation training to help you feel more empowered. With the right support, you can feel better about your situation and your life!

    We offer a compassionate and effective approach to treating your symptoms. Contact us to match with a therapist today.