“Tinnitus hijacked my life,” Carol told us.
The 54-year-old registered nurse from Austin, TX loves life. If there’s a local band playing, she’s there.
On the weekends she’s either out riding through the countryside on her motorcycle, or she’s spending time with her elementary-age grandkids.
But something happened 6 years ago that changed her life.
A Life Interrupted
It came in two distinct high-pitch tones, alternating, like the sound of the rusty see-saw from the playground where she took her son when he was 6.
Day and night. It was always there, transposed over everything.
When her granddaughter laughed at her silly jokes, Carol heard it. She would often cringe while explaining to her granddaughter that the reaction wasn’t directed at her.
When she tried to sleep at night, it was there in the dark room with her. It sometimes threw her heart into a panic, making sleep impossible.
When she was chatting over coffee with friends, she often felt on edge or down. She had trouble enjoying the conversation.
She completely lost interest in going to see local bands when they were playing nearby. Absolutely nothing was like it was before the tinnitus.
Then Carol heard about CBT.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy normally used by behavioral health professionals to treat addiction, mood disorders, bad habits and obsessive thinking among other things.
While tinnitus isn’t necessarily a mental health condition, it does have a mental component. The more attention you give it, and the more upset you get about it, the worse it gets.
Unlike many “alternative” remedies, CBT addresses this.
How Does CBT Work?
CBT is a solution-focused treatment that involves replacing negative or distorted thinking patterns and behaviors with healthier ones.
If you’ve ever had a friend who could see the positive in everything, it’s a little like that.
People suffering with tinnitus often spend much of their time trying to ignore it. But in doing so, it often appears to get louder. There are also significant emotions tied to tinnitus. This emotional component often strengthens the tinnitus, causing more distress, possibly because tinnitus has been associated with high blood pressure.
Many people with tinnitus end up in a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression. Anxiety makes the condition worse. Then because the condition is worse, they feel more depressed and anxious.
CBT helps a person process their emotions related to this symptom. And in doing so, they can slowly step out of the vicious cycle.
What The Research Says About Treating Tinnitus with CBT
Clinical research supports the use of CBT to significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms. But we should mention that, for best results, if there is an underlying medical or environmental condition causing the symptoms, that should also be addressed.
One such study was performed by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. A group of audiologist researchers administered CBT to a group of 68 patients, averaging 52 years.
Here’s what they found.
Patients who received professionally-administered cognitive behavioral therapy from hearing specialists saw drastic improvements in both tinnitus and tinnitus-induced insomnia.
Hearing specialists understand tinnitus inside and out and are the ideal specialist to address a complex health challenge like tinnitus. If CBT does not work out, they can help identify any underlying health issues or offer other options for treatment.
Eight studies already support this study’s findings. They each found that CBT is clearly more effective than no treatment at all.
Back to Carol’s Story
Carol no longer feels hijacked by tinnitus. She still hears it. But the volume is greatly reduced and when she’s enjoying a fun day with her granddaughter, she barely notices it.
After working with a hearing professional, she also decided to get hearing aids, which help eliminate the remnants of tinnitus that lingered after treatment.
Because she’s learned how to process her emotions about it, she no longer goes into those downward spirals when she does hear it.
Carol’s struggle with tinnitus isn’t unique. But unfortunately, her outcome is less common. Many people continue to suffer with tinnitus. They think they can’t do anything about it. Or they’re still trying home remedies that not only don’t work. They’re often dangerous.
Carol got help. She learned to manage her tinnitus. It no longer controls her life.
If you’re suffering with tinnitus, don’t put up with it. There are options. It’s so much harder to try to overcome something like this alone.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist and get your life back.