Tinnitus is a hearing condition associated with the sounds of ringing, buzzing, whistling, humming, hissing or other noises in one or both ears. The internally generated sound can be continuous or intermittent, and may vary in volume.
Tinnitus is relatively common and can occur at any age. Healthcare service, BUPA, estimates one in 10 people will experience mild tinnitus at some point in their lives. While some experience volumes of low-level background noise, others will endure high-pitched, rumbling sensations that can drown out everyday sounds.
In many cases, tinnitus will get better over time. It is however important to seek advice from your doctor to see if there is an underlying cause that can be treated. Examples of easily treatable causes include ear infections or earwax buildup. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further hearing tests and treatment.
Currently there isn't a single tinnitus treatment that works for everyone. If an underlying cause is found, treating this may improve your tinnitus. If a physical cause cannot be found, there are a range of tinnitus treatment options that can be used to help alleviate symptoms and make life easier for sufferers. Hypnosis for tinnitus is one such option. This page will explore the condition in more detail and how the different types of tinnitus treatment work.
On this page
- The different sounds of tinnitus
- How are tinnitus sounds generated?
- Causes of tinnitus
- Living with tinnitus
The different sounds of tinnitus
The most common types of tinnitus occur in the form of high-pitched sounds that sufferers place inside of their heads and ears. However, tinnitus symptoms can materialise in a variety of noises and sensations.
A less common type occurs in the form of low frequency noises. Sufferers may experience humming, murmuring or rumbling sounds. Many often think the noises are coming from external sources rather than inside their head or ears. Road traffic and household appliances such as fans and air conditioning systems can be a source of constant aggravation.
Another form is pulsatile tinnitus. This is where sufferers hear rhythmical noises that often beat in time with their pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is caused by the change in blood flow in the blood vessels near the ear. It is intensified as the mind becomes increasingly aware of this blood flow.
High blood pressure can amplify this type of tinnitus, as can an impaired hearing condition such as a perforated eardrum. Impaired hearing caused by a perforated eardrum increases the awareness of sounds that come from inside the body. This is because hearing is more sensitive and internal noises aren’t drowned out by external sounds.
How are tinnitus sounds generated?
The common sensation of ringing in the ears is thought to occur due to a malfunction in the movements of sound waves through the ear canal. When a sound reaches the human ear, it enters as a pressure wave of vibrating air. This is converted into mechanical vibrations by the eardrum. The sound is then amplified by the hammer (stirrup) structure, before flowing into a fluid-filled space in the inner ear.
Here the mechanical vibration of the sound is converted into chemical and electrical energy. This process is controlled by a part of the cochlea (the inner ear structure) called the Organ of Corti. A signal is then sent to the temporal lobe of the brain. This is what controls our hearing, and tells our mind that we are hearing a sound.
Tinnitus is thought to result from a malfunction in the Organ of Corti - when its tiny hair cells die. These are responsible for detecting sound at a set frequency and measuring its volume. Unfortunately, when these cells die, the 20,000 nerve receptors they are attached to inside the Organ of Corti do not. This can result in the default setting of an amplification of sounds being sent to the brain. Subsequently, certain frequencies of noise can become unnaturally loud and the brain will become more aware of them.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus can have a wide range of causes. In some cases the cause is not known – especially if the sufferer shows no signs of physical medical ear problems. Often, various factors may be involved which can trigger tinnitus symptoms. Among these include hearing loss, age-related deafness, and genetic damage to the inner ear. Exposure to loud music on a regular basis is also thought to cause ringing in the ears.
Ménières disease – which develops due to a problem with the cochlea - is considered to be one of the main causes of tinnitus. In this condition, sufferers will develop attacks of dizziness and hearing loss alongside ringing sounds in the ears.
Other problems that are thought to trigger tinnitus symptoms include:
- High blood pressure.
- Ear infections and blockages.
- Thyroid problems.
- Head injuries.
- Adverse reactions to medicines such as aspirin and quinine.
Living with tinnitus
Tinnitus is an individual experience. For many the symptoms are bearable, and some will experience them only occasionally. For others, the constant ringing or humming of loud noises all day and every day can impact on their lives.
The condition can cause a great deal of psychological stress, especially as the sounds cannot be escaped and are more or less continuous. Persistent loud, disturbing noises can lead to a vicious cycle of frustration and annoyance. This is followed by heightened anxiety, fear, anger and a desire to escape. All of these can worsen sensitisation to the condition.
This vicious cycle of psychological stress occurs because of how our body is designed to respond to such noises. When the brain picks up on loud sounds, it triggers a ‘flight or fight’ response. This leads to the surge of adrenaline and stimulating hormones throughout the body. As a result our heart rate speeds up and blood is sent rushing to the body’s large muscle groups. The aim of this process is to prepare our mind and bodies to run or do battle.
In the modern world, this automatic panic response materialises as anxiety. Tinnitus sufferers will endure it on a regular basis, which can add to the severity of their condition. Although stress does not cause tinnitus, it can exacerbate it. Hypnosis for tinnitus can be effective for not only addressing tinnitus symptoms, but also the associated stress.
Tinnitus tends to be more noticeable in certain situations. For example, many sufferers will notice their symptoms more when they are in a quiet place. This is because the ringing and buzzing is more obvious when there isn’t any background noise or distractions. As a result, many sufferers will find it difficult to relax and get good quality sleep.
If you are concerned that you are suffering from tinnitus, it is important to have your health checked by a doctor or specialist. They will recommend further investigation and treatment as appropriate. If the underlying cause is unclear, your treatment will focus on making day-to-day life more manageable.
Many people seek the help of complementary medicines to relieve their tinnitus symptoms and train the mind to live in peace with the sounds. Hypnosis for tinnitus is an increasingly popular form of tinnitus treatment, which can greatly improve quality of life for sufferers.
Hypnosis for tinnitus
Many seek tinnitus hypnosis to ease their symptoms after trying various other methods. Hypnotherapy is a modified state of consciousness in which the mind is temporarily re-routed. This allows the subconscious mind to open up to selective, positive and mood-boosting suggestions.
Because there are different types of tinnitus, each person’s hypnotherapy treatment is unique. Hypnotherapists will use a variety of techniques and methods to help sufferers live at relative peace with the noises. They will also retrain the brain to be less disturbed by them. By guiding a person's subconscious mind to process the sounds like it does everyday background noise, hypnosis for tinnitus can make the sounds seem less threatening.
How does tinnitus hypnosis work?
Hypnosis for tinnitus works by gaining entry to the subconscious part of the mind that stores memory, imagination and particular habits. By working with this part of the mind, hypnotherapists can help to train the client’s reaction to tinnitus sensations. The aim is to help them learn not to notice the sounds so much and allow them to naturally tune out from them.
By accessing this part of the mind, hypnosis for tinnitus is also thought to help heal other aspects linked to the condition. Common examples include stress and low mood. Feelings and emotions lie within our energy system so the removal of this internal negativity is thought to provide clients with a better opportunity for healing.
Under hypnosis, a client’s subconscious mind can revisit a time immediately before the onset of their tinnitus symptoms. The hypnotherapist will then bring them forward to a time when the client’s tinnitus began. This allows them to pinpoint the exact moment when negative emotions associated with the condition arose.
From here, the hypnotherapist will diffuse these emotional charges by instilling a positive mental attitude. This paves the way for retraining the client’s mind to focus on other stimuli rather than the internal ringing and buzzing sensations. This helps to reduce the volume and impact of their tinnitus symptoms.
Other forms of tinnitus treatment
While studies have shown a well-designed hypnotherapy programme can help to reduce tinnitus symptoms, there are other treatments available that can make the sounds less intrusive and troublesome.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Also known as Auditory Habituation, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) consists of two main components:
1) Directive counselling.
2) Low-level sound generators.
Directive counselling provides an intensive and individualised educational programme for clients. It looks into the causes and effects of the condition in the ear, the brain, and the coping mechanism.
Low-level sound generators will produce broadband noise via a hearing aid style device. This will be at a soft enough level so that the brain picks up on both the noise and the tinnitus. The aim is to help the brain relearn a pattern that will reduce the emphasis of the condition – desensitising clients to the sounds.
Music, particularly classical, is considered effective for relieving tinnitus symptoms. This type of music is soothing and relaxing to the limbic system – the brain’s emotional processor. This is linked to a person's reaction to tinnitus. Music is a distraction from tinnitus sounds, helping to mask the unwanted ringing in the ears.
Hearing aids can amplify background sounds and alter the production of ringing and buzzing sounds. It is thought that a heightened level of everyday sounds stimulates the brain in a way that lessens the impact of tinnitus.
It is important to remember there is no absolute cure for tinnitus. However, alternative therapies and techniques such as hypnosis for tinnitus and TRT can reduce the impact of symptoms. Tinnitus hypnosis is just one of many tinnitus treatments that can help sufferers to feel less overwhelmed by the condition and in better control of their symptoms. By changing their thoughts and feelings towards the condition, tinnitus hypnosis can provide a healthier and more fulfilling outlook on life.
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