As we finish up National Tinnitus Awareness Week, let’s take a look at a common problem that may affect around 18-20% of the UK population (McCormack et al 2014). We probably all know someone who suffers from it and may even have it ourselves, especially as we grow older but it can affect any age group (British Tinnitus Association).
Tinnitus itself consists of hearing unusual noises that are not coming from the external world but from within ourselves, experienced as ringing, buzzing, whistling even musical. These sounds can be loud or soft, in one or both ears, consistently or intermittently and have been experienced temporarily by most of in response to a loud noise. It can be caused by physiological problems like high blood pressure or nerve damage.
For some, the distress of the condition can lead to other symptoms such as anxiety or depression but for others it is something they learn to live with.
Depending on the cause it may disappear on its own, require medication to control the causes or other treatments. If it is caused by damage to the inner ear there may be no physical recovery but there is hope for addressing the psychological aspects of the condition.
Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, can be helpful in dealing with the secondary effects of the tinnitus as well as the symptom itself. Other approaches include techniques such as mindfulness which can help reduce stress as well as decrease contributory factors such as high blood pressure. Any therapy that can help the patient learn to accept the situation and deal with mental tension can be of benefit.
Hypnotherapy combines well with Cognitive Behavioural approaches to increase effective outcomes. In addition, therapeutic hypnosis is often a very relaxing experience in itself. Learning self hypnosis can be useful in calming the body’s stress response. Hypnotherapy can be applied in a similar way as with phobias, allowing the patient to build up tolerance to the noise and disturbing situations or even changing the perception of the noise and re-associating it with something more pleasant, like the sound of the sea or tuning it out like we do with noises around us that are not immediately relevant.
In any event, appropriate medical advice is essential before embarking on any therapeutic interventions for this condition but there are many ways that hypnosis may be helpful in managing the medium to long-term symptoms of tinnitus.
McCormack, A., Edmondson-Jones, M., Fortnum, H., Dawes, P., Middleton, H., Munro, K. J., & Moore, D. R. (2014). The prevalence of tinnitus and the relationship with neuroticism in a middle-aged UK population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 76(1), 56-60.