CBT for Tinnitus & Hyperacusis

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the name used to describe a wide range of sounds heard in the absence of any external signal. Also called “ringing in the ears” and “head noise”, tinnitus sounds consist, for example, of tones, whistles, hisses, static and pops, which can occur alone or in combination, with volume and patterning unique to each person.

What is Hyperacusis?

 Hyperacusis, a condition commonly associated with tinnitus, is experienced as uncomfortable sensations triggered by certain sounds. These sensations, often described as “nails on a chalkboard”, can result in even greater distress than that caused by tinnitus.

Tinnitus & Hyperacusis on the Rise

Tinnitus is a common condition, occurring in about 10 to 17% of the general population. Because of its association to acoustic trauma (prolonged exposure to loud noise), tinnitus is the number one cause of disability among returning war veterans. And due to the proliferation of personal listening devices, such as iPods, there is good reason to believe tinnitus is on the rise. About half of all people with tinnitus also experience “hyperacusis”, an over-sensitivity to loud sounds. To learn more about tinnitus and its effects, visit the American Tinnitus Association website, at www.ATA.org.

Tinnitus, Hyperacusis, and Emotional Health

Studies show that about 50% of tinnitus sufferers are psychologically affected by their condition. The emotional impact of tinnitus can range from simple annoyance and frustration to anger, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and impaired concentration, to more severe conditions like generalized anxietypanic, and depression. It may also be associated with specific phobic conditions around sounds. For over 20 years cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been used to effectively treat the emotional consequences of tinnitus and hyperacusis. CBT may be used in conjunction with other treatment approaches such as tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT).

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Tinnitus and Hyperacusis

Cognitive behavior therapy plays an important role in the overall assessment and management of tinnitus. The first step is to see a medical specialist called an otolaryngologist for evaluation. This assessment will include a hearing test provided by an audiologist to measure the presence of any hearing loss associated with tinnitus.

Cognitive behavior therapy may then be introduced to reverse the negative impact of tinnitus on your psychological health and quality of life. CBT is often used in combination with sound stimulation therapies, such as TRT. Primary to all treatments for tinnitus is the promotion of a neurological process called “habituation,” that is, the gradual reduction in perception of tinnitus sounds over time. Through habituation, you will come to “ignore” the tinnitus sounds and resume life as usual.

While both sound stimulation therapies and CBT promote habituation, cognitive-behavior therapy also helps by addressing anxiety, anger, and depression which often result from tinnitus. While debilitating in their own right, these negative emotional states also serve to block habituation, thus prolonging tinnitus-related suffering. CBT works to break this destructive cycle.

To learn more about CBT for tinnitus and hyperacusis, visit Dr. Hubbard’s tinnitus website: CBTforTinnitus.com