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What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound heard inside your ears but not generated by any external sound. Many people experience tinnitus – most typically, ringing in the ears, although other sounds are also heard – at some point in their lives. Most people will have tinnitus at one stage or another. And, for most of these, tinnitus is temporary. About 2 or 3% however suffer from tinnitus so badly that it has a serious effect on their ability to enjoy their lives.
Tinnitus is often first noticeable after you have been exposed to loud noise – at work, at a concert, or hearing a firework go off close by. Temporary tinnitus following loud noise usually lasts from 24 hours to a week or so. Everyone experiences tinnitus differently. For some it’s constant, for some it comes and goes. The noise which is heard is described by tinnitus sufferers in different ways – ears ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, whistling, or like the noise which crickets make. Some people also experience a loss of balance.
Some of our response to tinnitus is emotional
We hear noise around us all the time. The brain sorts these into order. If you’re watching TV your brain will filter out the sound of the hoover upstairs or the man mowing the lawn next door. These aren’t important so we don’t listen. But we tell ourselves which sounds are important. We respond more if the doorbell rings in the middle of the night than if it rings in the day, because it’s worrying. And if you worry about your tinnitus, then you can’t help but listen out for it – is it louder today? Is it quieter? If it’s louder, why? How long is it going to go on for? Does it mean I have a serious illness? The more we worry about it the more important we tell ourselves the noise must be. Then the more we listen out for it. It’s a downward spiral.
Objective tinnitus and subjective tinnitus
Some noises in the head can be heard by other people – a doctor with a stethoscope can hear your blood flowing, your neck creaking or your jaw working. Sometimes tinnitus can be heard with a stethoscope by another person. This is called objective tinnitus. Sometimes the noise can only be heard by you, and can’t he beard by anyone else – but to you, the person whose cochlea is making tinnitus, it is all too audible, because it is produced inside your ear, which is basically a microphone. When the noise is inaudible to a third party, this is called subjective tinnitus.
Most people have some sorts of ear noise, or noise inside their head, all the time – if we were in a soundproof both, with no other noise, most of us would experience tinnitus. However, most people don’t notice the slight background ringing in the ears for the majority of the time, because they are distracted by the noise going on around them. Their attention is drawn away from the internal noise by the various external noises. However, when your hearing has been damaged, whether temporarily or permanently, the distraction of other noises is absent, so you feel more aware of your ears ringing.
Tinnitus and insomnia
Many people who have tinnitus find that their sleep is affected, with about half of all tinnitus sufferers also struggling with insomnia. Most tinnitus sufferers say their tinnitus is worse at night. The steps specifically advised to help tinnitus will also help you to sleep better; avoid stimulants (coffee or Coke for example will increase blood flow, thus making the tinnitus seem louder. Caffeine will also keep you awake, too), exercise, learn relaxation techniques, and learn to reduce your anxiety. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are also extremely effective for reducing the stress caused by the inability to sleep and the vicious circle that can arise from this – not sleeping, worrying about not sleeping, which then makes you unable to sleep – and so on.
What causes tinnitus?
There is no one single cause, and often the cause remains unknown. Some cases of tinnitus are associated with hearing loss. The cause of the hearing loss makes no difference – it can be due to damage caused by noise, by age, by infection in the ear, or due to a blockage – earwax in the external auditory canal for example, or caused by medication. Other less common causes are medications which affect the middle ear (for example, some antibiotics), cardiovascular disease, and aspirin taken in high doses (more than 12 doses per day). TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Disorder, for which there are also many causes, including stress and anxiety, may in turn cause tinnitus (this type of tinnitus responds extremely well to treatment). Meniere’s Disease may be the cause, as can acoustic neuroma – this is a tumour, but it is benign – which means that it is not cancer, and cannot spread elsewhere in the body.
Whatever the cause, stress and anxiety play a significant role in tinnitus. As with Irrritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS and Restless Leg Syndrome, tinnitus is one of many physical conditions widely thought to be made worse by stress. Often, people who really struggle with tinnitus also suffered from stress, anxiety or depression before they became aware of the ringing in their ears; sometimes anxiety and stress is brought about by the onset of tinnitus. Your hearing is part of your general nervous system and so is sensitive to everything that affects overall health; and stress is known beyond doubt to have a direct effect on the body.
It is recommended that before seeking hypnotherapy to help with tinnitus you rule out any underlying physical problems by undergoing medical examination with your GP or an ENT (ear, nose and throat) consultant.
Can tinnitus make you go deaf?
No! Absolutely not. This is something which can really cause a lot of anxiety and worry for people who suffer with tinnitus. What causes the confusion is that many people first notice ear noise when their hearing is damaged (for example if your ears are blocked when you have a cold). So because you cannot hear what is going on outside you pay more attention to the noise in your head. It is simply because there is no other noise to disguise the noise in your head.
This is why, if you suffer from tinnitus, you may often find that it is worse at night – when there is less exterior noise to distract you. But whilst deafness (complete or partial; temporary or permanent) may make you aware of tinnitus, there are no recorded cases of it happening the other way round – tinnitus does not cause you to go deaf.
Is there a cure for tinnitus?
Many people panic when they have tinnitus because they may have heard that there is “no cure”. All that means is that there isn’t one single method which can be guaranteed to work for absolutely everybody, so that they will never experience it again – in the same way that there is no “cure for cancer” or a cure for bad backs – but there are millions of people walking around who have benefitted from treatments they have received. There are many treatments which are recognised to help tinnitus adn the stress, anxiety and depression so often linked with it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniquesare methods which are known to work. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks at your thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and assumptions about tinnitus. As with any illness there are emotions, fears and feelings attached, and CBT allows you to deal with these and to re-focus your thoughts. The deep sense of relaxation necessary for hypnosis also allows you to feel comfortable and untroubled – so much so that many sufferers report that they do not notice the tinnitus at all whilst in hypnosis.
If there is an underlying physical problem which is causing or contributing to your tinnitus then resolving this problem will in the vast majority of cases also completely resolve the tinnitus. For example, those with TMJ Disorder and tinnitus frequently find that resolving the TMJ resolves the tinnitus. If dealing with associated physical problems doesn’t sufficient improve your tinnitus, then CBT, relaxation techniques and hypnosis will help you to cope calmly and without stress with any remaining tinnitus.
“Tinnitus only gets worse and worse over time”
This is not true. Many sufferers report that their tinnitus improves or quietens down over time. This is sometimes due to physiological or psychological changes, because you’ve found a treatment which works for you, because you’ve simply got used to it, or sometimes a combination of these. Some people find that they get so used to the noise that they no longer really notice it; others may need help to achieve a state of mind where they can re-focus their thoughts away from the noise.
How do hypnotherapy, hypnosis and CBT help to relieve tinnitus?
One of the most effective ways to treat tinnitus is to help you “switch off” from the noise; helping you to reduce your awareness of it. It’s like not noticing a clock ticking, or the way that you breathe, or blink, or the fact that your new shoes are pinching – as with many everyday sensations, you simply fail to notice them until your attention is drawn to them. Hypnotherapy and hypnosis allow you to attain a state of very deep relaxation – to the point where the noise of the tinnitus just gets quieter and quieter. You will be taught self hypnosis and relaxation techniques to enable you to attain the same state of relaxation whenever you need to. You will learn to focus your attention away from the noise and towards other sensations which are pleasant and relaxing. The deep state of relaxation which you feel when in hypnosis allows the body to become less tense and this alone will help tinnitus – many sufferers find that the problem is worsened by bodily tension, for example clenching of the jaw. Just feeling more relaxed also enables you to deal much better with the anxiety that tinnitus can cause. In addition to allowing you to spend extended periods in a a state of deep relaxation, hypnosis allows specific suggestions to be made to you about dealing with your tinnitus, at a time when your mind is very receptive to and focused on such suggestions.
What is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy?
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is a combination of counselling and “sound therapy”. Counselling – I use CBTand hypnotherapy – allows you to explore your emotional response to your tinnitus and helps you to find ways to take less notice of it. Sound therapy is the masking of the tinnitus noise by creating other noise; some people use the “white noise” created by fans, air conditioners, computers, air purifiers and other common electrical items found in the home. It is also possible to buy pillow speakers, and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf sells these from its website http://www.rnid.org.uk. These are not expensive and many sufferers find them extremely helpful, together with counselling. I do not use “sound therapy”; I have not trained in this, because many studies have shown that is the counselling which is the most effective part of tinnitus retraining therapy.
What else can I do to help my tinnitus?
In addition to hypnotherapy, hypnosis and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, there is some evidence that some or all of the following measures can be of help to tinnitus sufferers: exercise, taking steps to reduce blood pressure, and avoiding aspirin, salt, caffeine and other stimulants. Some studies also suggest that avoiding Vitamin E may help. All of the things which help insomnia will also help if your tinnitus makes it difficult to sleep.
Alcohol and tinnitus
Studies have shown alcohol both helping tinnitus, and making it worse. Whilst in some individuals tinnitus worsens after drinking, others find that the increased relaxation resulting from a few glasses actually helps. There is no good reason to give up moderate drinking unless you are absolutely certain that this is making your tinnitus worse. You could perhaps keep a diary for 2 or 3 weeks – rating the tinnitus, how loud it is, how much it bothers you, how it affects your sleep – together with a note of how much alcohol was consumed, and see if a pattern emerges.
Smoking and Tinnitus
Avoid quinine – as in tonic water. Nicotine and marijuana too. Smoking narrows your blood vessels which supply vital oxygen to your ears and their sensory cells. And stop smoking!
Hypnotherapy in Manchester
The therapists at Manchester Hypnotherapy have over fifteen years of experience in treating insomnia, anxiety, phobia and teaching self hypnosis. If you want to find a hypnotherapist in south Manchester to help stress at work, stress and anxiety, emotional problems such as jealousy or insecurity, or low self esteem, then go to any of the independent websites which list and give reviews of hypnotherapists (for example www.freeindex.co.uk – Google also displays reviews) and you will see the excellent results which Pam and her team have achieved. If you would like further information about hypnosis in Manchester, for insomnia, depression, for help with weight loss, to break bad habits, to help fear of flyingor for any other problem, please call 07779 575 816 for a free, no obligation, confidential discussion.
Tinnitus treatment in Didsbury, Manchester – convenient for Chorlton, Gatley, Cheadle, Stockport, Altrincham, and all areas of south and central Manchester and north Cheshire.