Dealing with Guilt and Shame of Tinnitus

Discussion in 'Dr. Bruce Hubbard (Psychologist, CBT)' started by Fosginn, Aug 3, 2016.

    1. Fosginn

      Fosginn Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise
      I have been a tinnitus sufferer for many years. In reading the posts of many on this forum, I see many people came involuntarily to their tinnitus, meaning that the causes were not self-inflicted through excessive noise by choice as is the case for me.

      As I look back over my life, I see countless times where I was reckless with my hearing. I loved ( and still love) listening to loud music. I have ignored the warnings over the years. I was a DJ and a piper in a pipe band where I only occasionally protected my hearing. Most recently, I took up running and used ear buds with volumes over and above what they should be. The chickens, as they say, have come home to roost.

      A week ago, I finished a run and my ears were sore. Soon after, my T exploded and my right ear has a shrieking ringing in it. I have gone to my GP and asked for a referral to an ENT because I am experiencing pain in addition to the ringing.

      I do not ask for forgiveness for my stupidity and carelessness, but I need some advice and support on several fronts.

      First, how do I deal with the guilt of my actions? I have recklessly put my lifestyle and livelihood at grave risk by my actions. I am a professional coach and listening is a huge part of what I do. How could I jeopardize this by not heeding all the warnings around loud noise?

      My family depends upon me. How do I explain to them that I have yet again self-inflicted further hearing loss on myself?

      If I get hearing aids, as most surely will result, how do I explain the huge cost to my partner?

      How do I explain why I am wearing them to others?

      I will have to explain my terrible decisions on a repeated basis and suffer through the shame

      As you can see, I am panicking a bit and incredibly angry with myself. I am continuing to exercise and work through this, but it is so hard and I feel desperately alone.

      I am not considering doing harm to myself--not even close-- but I just need some advice and communication strategies to process the guilt and shame I feel now.

      Your thoughts and ideas would be greatly appreciated.
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    2. Dr. Hubbard

      Dr. Hubbard Member

      New York City
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Music
      Dear Fosginn,

      My heart goes out to you. Right now, as so many of us do in the immediate aftermath of tinnitus onset (or, it seems in your case, a worsening of preexisting condition), you are, in CBT terms catastrophizing – grasping onto the worst case scenario as if it were written in stone! You don’t know what will happen here. You don’t know, for example, that you will need hearing aids, or that in-ear noise generators will be your chosen course of treatment. The fact is the vast majority of people with tinnitus – somewhere around 98% - following a difficult adjustment period – go on to adapt to their tinnitus, and many of us (myself included), rarely notice it or think about it. What I recommend for you over the next few weeks is a “wait-and-see” approach, taking each step as it comes. First meet with the ENT, see what he/she has to say, and then move to the next step. There are reasonable options to help with the adjustment. It’s like losing a loved one – it takes time for the brain to adapt to the change but eventually it can.

      And, as you point out, for those of us (myself included) who came to tinnitus through careless exposure to music, there is the added burden of guilt and shame. We have, we believe, done this to ourselves. Well, the reality is: once we have tinnitus, how we came to it no longer matters. All that matters is doing what we can in the present moment to: 1) adjust and adapt, and 2) learn and practice careful listening so as not to make it worse.

      As a cognitive behavioral therapist, my recommendations are to keep your thinking grounded, reassure yourself with the overwhelming probability that your brain will adapt, stay in the moment, taking each step as it comes, and in the months to come, as you adjust to your new soundscape, work to get your attention out of your ears and back where it belongs - your valued life!

      Hope that helps!

      Dr Hubbard
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