Seven Cognitive Behavioral Techniques For Tinnitus

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Tinnitus, or the ringing sound in your ear, is not only annoying, but it can have some adverse psychological effects. While there’s no cure for tinnitus to date, hearing health professionals recommend treatment options like hearing aids, sound therapy, lifestyle changes, and changing medication to help patients improve their quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a type of talk therapy used to change thinking patterns around unhelpful behaviors, health conditions and stress. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help retrain the brain to modify the body’s response and emotions to the tinnitus signal. 

Treble Health audiologist and tinnitus expert Dr. Michelle Neidleman Kennedy reviews 7 CBT techniques for tinnitus.

Here’s something most people don’t understand: When you have tinnitus, the way you respond to that ringing can change its perception for the better. At Treble Health, we recommend CBT techniques to our patients every day with varying levels of success. Skeptical? Try these seven CBT techniques and see how it goes:

Emotional Reasoning

Most people shy away from feelings like anger, sadness, and anxiety, opting to ignore them, rather than trying to understand them. Instead, jot down feelings towards your tinnitus, and try to explain why you feel that way. Our emotions aren’t facts, and this process will help you to capture the untruths and release them. 

"As a recent graduate who’s achieved stage four habituation, I cannot thank Treble Health enough for getting me to the finish line."
"As a recent graduate who’s achieved stage four habituation, I cannot thank Treble Health enough for getting me to the finish line."
– Louis
Book a free consultation to learn which Treble Health solution is right for you. Join Louis and thousands more who have found lasting tinnitus relief.

Other times, emotions reveal the ways tinnitus affects everyday life. Tinnitus may make you irritable, or disrupt your sleep, but look for those moments of joy you’ve had. At the same time, you could’ve watched a nice movie with friends, hiked, or finally ran those pressing errands. This exercise aims to take these negative emotions and turn them into something neutral, or helpful.

Work On Your Self-Talk

Woman looking at herself in the mirror

When we have tinnitus, it’s common to talk negatively to ourselves. It is important that you stop beating yourself up and work on noticing the things you have done to change. Changing the way you perceive and talk to yourself, whether out loud, or in your mind can reduce the negative impacts of tinnitus. So, instead of saying “this will never get better”, try “lots of people overcome tinnitus”, or “I’m working on getting better”.

What other negative things have you been saying to yourself? Try to change them now. Some other examples of positive self-talk include:

  • Most cases of tinnitus are manageable
  • My doctor has lots of successful tinnitus patients
  • I’ll eventually learn to manage my tinnitus
  • Tinnitus isn’t always a life sentence 
  • There are lots of management options available for people with tinnitus
  • These are speedbumps, not setbacks and those bumps don’t mean my tinnitus is getting worse
  • I can overcome tinnitus symptoms and live a healthy and happy life

Practice Cognitive Restructuring (Reframing)

Tinnitus treatment is not linear, and sometimes, there will be fluctuations. Stress, diet, and other unknown factors can increase our perception of tinnitus. So, even after you’ve been through treatment, changes in your tinnitus can occur. These changes can bring back our memories of times when tinnitus was more difficult, but don’t fixate on these moments instead focus on your journey ahead. 

On days you have noticed your tinnitus, write down one thing that went well. Make a habit of tracking your milestones and wins – the further you are into treatment, the more helpful this exercise becomes. Look at all you’ve accomplished, or at the very least, use it to remind yourself that there’s a calm after the storm. You can also jot down the things you’re looking forward to and work towards them.

Live In The Moment With Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all about the here and now. CBT borrows this approach from Buddhist philosophy. It involves focusing on the things that make you feel good or happy as they arrive, rather than fighting the tinnitus. For your first mindfulness exercise, focus on all the things around you, pushing past the auditory issue, and utilizing your other senses. 

You can practice mindfulness at any time, especially when you feel stressed. Perhaps the tinnitus sounds started when you began chewing, but think about how amazing the food tastes and how happy you are to be around friends and family! 

Focus On You With Self-Reflection

Woman with overlapping hands over her chest

This is one of the best times to start focusing on yourself and the things you like to do. Or, even discover new, fun, and interesting things. Pick up a new hobby or even start working out. Use this time to improve yourself physically, mentally, and even socially. Meet new friends, see new places, and learn who you are outside of tinnitus. 

Activities that require you to learn new skills, help to build new neural pathways and promote neuroplasticity. Here are some new  things you can try:

  • Painting
  • Running
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Learning a new language
  • Playing an instrument
  • Video Games

Reduce Cognitive Distortions And Start To Think Objectively

Okay, so you have a tinnitus fluctuation. Is that the end of the world? Absolutely not. Don’t let these negative thoughts distract you from your goals. Having a professional who can help answer your questions can be a great way of letting go of the thoughts that have been keeping tinnitus on your mind.

In the meantime, here’s how you can approach cognitive distortions with these three steps: 

  • Write down your thoughts based on the event/trigger for the negative emotions
  • Add the consequence/negative behavior that accompanies the thought
  • Find a rational counterargument

For example, “My boss is angry”, and “I’m scared I might get fired and now I’m hyper-fixating on my past mistakes” is countered by “My boss complimented me on the presentation last week, so he/she’s probably angry about something else, or at someone else.”

Set Realistic Goals

The journey of tinnitus and how long it lasts is different for each person. Even though we want it to go away as soon as possible, we have to remember it is something that needs to be worked on. Just like other injuries that take time to heal, tinnitus will too.  Just like other injuries that can be treated, there are ways to treat tinnitus. One of these ways is managing your expectations regarding how long things will take. 

Arrows pointing towards a target

Your primary goal should be to be patient and kind with yourself and give yourself time to get better instead of trying to make it go away all at once. It’s easy to feel stagnant or like you’re moving backward when managing tinnitus. This slow and steady approach makes your milestones more manageable and visible

Identify one aspect of your life, like going out with friends, or taking a morning walk. Your goal is to make your tinnitus less noticeable during these periods, at your own pace. So, start with low-stress events and work your way up, or start your morning with meditation before heading out for your walk. Then, reflect on how these changes have improved your experience.

If Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t work for your tinnitus, it can certainly help you in other aspects of your life. Put these strategies into practice, and explore other tinnitus management options with your audiologist at your next visit! With the right help, you can overcome the most debilitating aspects of this condition! 

Tinnitus Management With Treble Health

At Treble Health, we understand the unique challenges presented by tinnitus. Our team of audiologists is here to help, offering expert guidance and support tailored to your specific condition. If you are looking for solutions to any tinnitus related problems, we strongly encourage you to schedule a complimentary telehealth consultation with an audiologist on our team.

By scheduling a complimentary telehealth consultation, you are taking a vital step towards understanding and managing your tinnitus. In this 20-minute Zoom session, our team will provide personalized recommendations, answer your questions, and help you navigate the complexities of your specific case. We are committed to helping you find relief and improve your quality of life. Click here to book your free consultation and start your journey to a quieter, more comfortable life.

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