An Approach to Dealing with Tinnitus and Getting Happier

Discussion in 'Support' started by tufflax, Oct 27, 2017.

    1. tufflax

      tufflax Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      An Approach to Dealing With Tinnitus and Getting Happier

      I got tinnitus about a month ago. I thought it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I heard it all the time. I was never happy. That lasted for about 10 days. In the last two weeks I have seen enormous improvements in my happiness, even thought I still have tinnitus. I can ignore the sound for perhaps 80% of the day. And my therapist, who also has tinnitus, says that he does not care one bit that he has tinnitus, and unless he talks about it to patients, can ignore it 100% of the time. I can probably work for you too.

      The techniques I'm going to describe are taken from cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy. Actually I'm not sure exactly what the difference is between those two, or if what I describe is a subset or superset of them, but look them up if you want more information. Also, practicing mindfulness, in the Buddhist/meditation sense, is useful.

      It seems to me that a lot of people who really suffer from tinnitus has the wrong approach. People say that they have had tinnitus for a long time and still think of it as a big problem. I can't help but think that these people have gone about it the wrong way.

      Step 1: The emotions are worse than the sound

      Realize that the emotions are worse than the sound. In fact, they are almost all of the problem. If you feel suicidal or depressed, it is because of emotions, not sound. If you have had tinnitus for some time, you have likely noticed that when you are happy, you don't mind the tinnitus as much.

      Step 2: Negative thoughts cause the emotions

      Negative thoughts bring the emotions and are totally counterproductive. In the beginning I had three types of thoughts that bring nothing but negative emotions. These are:
      • I should have done something differently in the past to not have gotten tinnitus.
      • I wish I didn't have tinnitus. I wish it was silent.
      • What if it never goes away? What if it gets worse?
      These thoughts are irrational. You can not change the past. You can not change the fact that you have tinnitus (maybe you can, if your tinnitus is the result of stress, muscle tension, drugs, or something, so go see an ear specialist if you haven't). And you don't know what will happen in the future. Accept these facts. Stop thinking the negative thoughts.

      To make it very clear that it's the thoughts that bring the negative emotions, consider the following two examples.
      1. If you were previously deaf with tinnitus, and had gained hearing, you would be at the exact same place you are now, but you would be very happy about it.
      2. If you exercise too hard and get sore muscles, you don't mind the pain, do you? But if the exact same amount of pain was from an incurable muscle disease that results in early death, you would worry about it and get a lot of negative emotions, and the pain would actually feel worse.
      So, in addition to stopping the worrying about the future and the past, stop thinking of your tinnitus as annoying or as a problem. Be objective! Don't put labels and values on it.

      How you think about the problem is almost all of the problem! I know I said that for emotions, but since thoughts cause emotions, it's almost the same thing. But thoughts are the cause of most emotions. This is true for more than just tinnitus. If you are stuck in traffic, you can get mad and frustrated. But if you are mindful you can realize that there is no point to getting mad and frustrated. Instead use the time to relax and listen to music, or do something else productive, and you will be happier. Study mindfulness if you are interested more in this kind of thing. Mindfulness is very useful as a tool.

      Step 3: Don't do anything just because of the tinnitus

      Don't listen to white noise, music, or watch TV just to avoid hearing your tinnitus. Don't start exercising to get rid of anxiety and stress. Don't avoid doing what you previously liked doing. Don't avoid loud but normal, everyday sounds (in fact avoiding loud but normal sounds can make your hearing more fragile in the long run, at least so I have been told by a credible source). Don't be afraid of hearing and listening to your tinnitus. In fact, listen to your tinnitus until you get bored of it! The goal is to make the tinnitus as boring and insignificant as possible. Then your brain will start ignoring it, just as it ignores the sound of your own breath. But if you constantly worry about your tinnitus, and let it run your life, then it is not insignificant, and your brain will not ignore it.

      Think about it: You could start freaking out about the sound of your breath. Imagine that as soon as you heard your breath, you would start worrying about it and get anxiety. Imagine that you would start listening to white noise to mask the sound of your own breath. Does that sound like a good idea? Like your breath, tinnitus is just a sound. And your brain can ignore it if it is insignificant to you.

      Realize that it takes time to get better

      Expect this process to take time. At least a few weeks. Probably more for a large number of people. We can't control our thoughts and emotions very well. As an example, just try thinking of nothing. In a few seconds you will think of something, and you can't even decide what that something will be. This is why it's important to make the sound insignificant. You can't just tell your brain that it is insignificant, you must actually believe it, and that takes time. Act like you believe it, and it will help you. Question your current beliefs. Think about what I wrote. It it's not working, see a therapist to help you.

      Some random additional tips
      • This video is a good explanation of mindfulness, and why it's worth exploring. As I said, it's a very useful tool.
        2016 - Living Life Mindfully - Michael A. Singer
      • If you want to do something, do it. Don't wait for the tinnitus to get better. Just do it anyway. Soon you have forgotten about the tinnitus. I even stopped hearing my tinnitus while I wrote this post about tinnitus. And it was silent in my room.
      • I guess this whole process it a lot easier if your life is good outside and/or before the tinnitus. If your life sucks in other ways, you might need to work on it. But see it as a challenge. Realize that there are people in the world who have it tougher than you, and still manage to be happy. Be optimistic! People with a purpose can overcome almost any obstacle.
      • Writing a diary about your tinnitus problems is a good idea for several reasons. It helps you think more objectively about it. It helps you think about what you are doing and thinking, to be more mindful. If you share it with someone they may have practical tips. Maybe find a support group and share tips.
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    2. pathworker2017
      No Mood

      pathworker2017 Member

      Belfast United Kingdom
      Tinnitus Since:
      2012 approx
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      currently unknown, conductive hearing loss suspected
      talking of mindfulness..the following site is a goldmine of information although I suspect the person behind it is no longer actively engaged in its maintenance no matter, there is plenty of material here that can be downloaded freely.

      this is a generic course in mindfulness but with appropriate adaptation has the potential to be useful in alleviating the emotional effects associated with T.
    3. Steve S.

      Steve S. Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      I agree with your approach. I've had T for 20 yrs. Back in May they changed me from paxil to trintellex. I woke up at 2:00 am one morning and my T was screaming. The trintellex didn't work. So i fell into a depression along with my anxiety. It was hell. They put me on zoloft. It wasn't working. I tried it for 9 weeks. They put me back on paxil. Been 5 weeks now. I'm feeling 100% better. I've found getting my emotions in check was a big help towards habituation. I'm starting to get where the T doesn't bother as much. Haven't taken a xanax in 3 weeks. I still have bad days (today is one) but i know i can cope and i'm able to think more rational about my T. My mindset now is i'm not going to let this effect my life. I have to much to live for. I want to enjoy every minute. You are correct about habituation taking time. I'm probably about half way to habituation. But to keep worring about it is a waste of time. When your done worring the T is still there. You have to accept it as a way of life. Its hard, trust me i know. But its possible. Start doing things that bring you pleasure. I still struggle sometimes. But to have a panic attack about your T, embrace it. It's not going to hurt you. It's the trapped feeling thats over whelming. But your not trapped. You are only if you think it. You have to learn to give up control ( very hard for me). But once you do, the habituation process starts.
    4. billie48

      billie48 Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      not sure
      Very insightful post. It is amazing to come from someone whose is quite new with T. A big part of T suffering is mental. Once the mental side is taken care of, T is a lot less intrusive. But some make take a lot longer to get to the state when they can think about T and all its sufferings rationally. So yes, time is the essence and patience is needed to deal with this T journey. Thanks for an excellent post.

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