Tinnitus can cause anxiety and depression as well as psychological disorders. It isn’t painful but can be upsetting for the individual. The high-pitched ringing, buzzing, hissing or whistling can disrupt the sufferer’s everyday life. The treatment needs to include different approaches to combat the negative effects it causes. A popular method is cognitive behavioural therapy which focuses on the individual’s reaction to tinnitus to improve distress, anxiety and lack of quality of life.
Another treatment is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). This is based on the idea that tinnitus is caused by damage to the inner and outer hair cells of the ear which can cause abnormal nerve activity. TRT uses direct counselling and sound therapy to target the factors which cause the bad activity.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Some people say their tinnitus sounds like a high-pitched “eeeeeee” which they can’t switch off. For many, the sound has no effect on their everyday life and not bad enough to cause them a problem. For those who can’t get away from the noise it is easy to start suffering from depression. Treatment for these people is necessary and one method is cognitive behaviour therapy.
CBT doesn’t get rid of the noise in the ears but aims to change your thoughts about tinnitus. It focuses on changing the bad thoughts and emotions into good ones. Having tinnitus can mean that everyday activities are affected mainly because of the negative thoughts sufferer’s link to the condition. CBT encourages you to talk about your feelings, emotions and thoughts about tinnitus, so they can deal with the problems in a better way.
Although it is one of the most popular treatments for tinnitus, CBT doesn’t cure it. Instead it can change your behaviour like anxiety or depression that tinnitus can cause. Using conditioning principles linked to behavioural therapy, CBT can hopefully reduce the stress tinnitus causes.
In a study by Hesser et al., (2011) it has been shown that CBT is good form of treatment for tinnitus as it can reduce the annoyance and distress it can cause. The evidence in the report showed that CBT can relieve the symptoms of CBT and also of anxiety and depression. The treatment also teaches sufferer’s other coping strategies such as relaxation techniques which may help them to sleep better and can also teach them to reduce their fear of facing unpleasant sounds.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
As research has continued, the therapy available for tinnitus has increased with Tinnitus Retraining Therapy being one example. TRT is delivered by hearing professionals and trains the brain to ignore the sounds connected with tinnitus. There are 2 components which make up this type of therapy: The use of directive counselling to reclassify tinnitus to a category of neutral signals and 2. The weakening of tinnitus-related neuronal activity through sound therapy.
TRT is used to treat tinnitus based on the neurophysiological model i.e. the involvement of both the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. Therefore, both the conscious and subconscious are important connections and so TRT helps to retrain the way the brain reacts to tinnitus.
TRT is developed on an individual basis and so cannot be delivered as a group therapy. Information about the patient is gathered about their everyday life, patient history and their use of wearable devices like hearing aids and used by the hearing professional to devise a suitable therapy programme. The programme aims to change the way the brain responds to the tinnitus so the noise can be tuned out and becomes less noticeable.
It has been demonstrated that both CBT and TRT are effective in reducing the bad effects tinnitus causes by improving the patients quality of life. Although CBT does not reduce the loudness of the noise experienced by sufferers, it can improve your behavioural response to the sounds. While TRT is beneficial for treating severe tinnitus compared to mild-moderate presentations.