Tinnitus - How hypnotherapy can help
Beethoven, Charles Darwin and Smetana were all famous sufferers of tinnitus. In fact, Smetana hinted at his suffering in his music, with piercing violin and piccolo parts. You are in good company!
Tinnitus (or ringing in the ears) is a symptom – not a disease. The distinction matters because not all the causes of tinnitus are benign. You need to have a diagnosis before you can consider hypnotherapy. Noises, especially one-sided, pulsating or associated with vertigo, need to be investigated.
Assuming you have the medical ‘all clear’ to proceed, then hypnotherapy is an excellent adjunct to symptom control. We have known this since 1973 – later studies report response rates of 60-70% for worthwhile improvement.
This is not really surprising. Hearing is one of our most important sensory modalities. It is a crucial monitor for danger. Hearing transmits messages to the auditory centre, which relays the appropriate threat alert. The brain finds it difficult to distinguish when sounds are generated internally - so exaggerated threat levels are inferred.
Tinnitus varies among people. The sounds some people hear are by no means always ‘ringing’ (poor Smetana heard waterfalls). The the degree of intrusion is variable. ‘Habituation’ is the ability to strip away the negative emotion from the perceived sound. Some people seem better than others at habituating to noise (both internal and external). However, substantial numbers find tinnitus remorseless, pitiless and unbearable.
Hypnotherapy can help in many ways:
- It can teach the subconscious to relax reliably and profoundly.
- It can enable you to ‘de-amplify’ the volume of sounds and modulate both pitch and tone.
- It can teach you how to retune and dissociate yourself from the noise.
- It can decouple the negative emotions linked to tinnitus and ‘retrain your limbic system’.
- It can build optimism.
- It can transform sleep patterns.
Here are some additional helpful lifestyle adjustments to augment the benefits of hypnotherapy:
- You should avoid both total silence and extreme noise. Aim for a ‘sound rich environment‘ at moderate volume. Keeping radios and televisions on can help. Social interaction and outdoor activities should be encouraged and not avoided.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- ‘Hearing’ your tinnitus is fine – ‘listening’ is forbidden! Hypervigilance is your enemy.
- Tinnitus is not life threatening, it is just annoying, random, meaningless noise – not remotely worthy of your attention. It’s time to focus on the many other rewarding facets of your life.
- Utilise your general practitioner and your ENT specialist.
It is universally acknowledged that tinnitus noise levels can fluctuate. It is also accepted that stress and depression tend to make matters worse. So managing these conditions is important.
There is good medical evidence that tinnitus frequently arises from a phenomenon called ‘neuroplasticity’ – a property of the nervous system which can lead to painful ‘vicious circles’. It therefore has much in common with ‘phantom limb pain’ and other chronic pain syndromes. We know that hypnotherapy is especially useful in these clinical areas. And so it is not surprising that, for tinnitus, the evidence also points to therapeutic benefit. We also know that sleep disturbance is near universal – for obvious reasons.
Stay optimistic. Improvement can be expected and eventual complete remission is surprisingly common. Be patient – it may take a month or two – and don’t allow worthless noise to dictate your life.
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