Tinnitus Distress

If you have tinnitus you're not alone. Tinnitus is a common problem affecting up to fifty million Americans. That's 20% of the population and the number is rising. On diagnosis, we learn there is no cure. Tinnitus is for life. We'll just have to live with it. 

Fortunately, most instances of tinnitus are harmless. But one out of three, triggers a secondary emotional condition, Tinnitus Distress, that can significantly affect health and wellbeing.

Tinnitus Distress occurs when tinnitus is experienced as intrusive or bothersome. At mild levels of distress, you find tinnitus annoying and distracting. At moderate levels, you experience anxiety, irritability, and have trouble sleeping or concentrating. When tinnitus distress is severe, both sleep and concentration are impaired. You anxiously monitor your tinnitus, withdraw from friends and family, and find it hard to keep your mind on anything else. You believe that with tinnitus, enjoyment and meaning are diminished or impossible. Life as you've known it is over. I was a clinical psychologist with 15 years’ experience, and it got the better of me, when I struggled with my own tinnitus from 2005 to 2007. (See My Tinnitus Story).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This website is designed to help people with tinnitus distress learn about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a clinically-proven program to reduce emotional reactivity to tinnitus, redirect attention, and motivate courageous action to live a full, enjoyable life with tinnitus. CBT is like physical therapy for your brain, a coordinated program of exercise—ways to think, act and pay attention—that relax the brain's hypervigilance to tinnitus and promote habituation. Click here to find a CBT therapist. 

Hope Through Habituation

Take heart! While it may feel like there's no coming back from tinnitus, the fact is the vast majority of people with tinnitus—98%—are no longer bothered. Many of these people once felt like you. They too struggled with tinnitus, found it hard to believe that anyone could accept tinnitus as intrusive as theirs. But now they rarely notice the noise, and when they do, it's no more distracting than the hum of a fridge. Their tinnitus has not changed, but their brains have adapted to it, have come to screen tinnitus out, through a natural, neurological process called habituation. Learn More...



Why Haven't I already Habituated? 

Your brain has identified tinnitus as a threat and has sounded the alarm—a self-protective reaction called anxiety. Emotions like anxiety trigger thoughts and actions intended to protect against tinnitus—to resist, avoid, and ultimately, to turn tinnitus off. But what begins as a natural survival reaction sets off a vicious cycle that deepens distress, blocks habituation, and can eventually eclipse your entire life. I call this cycle the Tinnitus Trap! Learn More... 

Resisting, avoiding & Searching  for a cure virtually guarantee you will not habituate to tinnitus. 

How Can I Habituate to Tinnitus? 

Habituation is a natural process that occurs automatically over time. You can promote habituation by changing your thoughts, actions, and attention in relation to tinnitus. This is what CBT therapists call your response to tinnitus.

You won't be expected to go from negative to positive. The key is to develop a neutral response, to practice deliberately treating tinnitus as unimportant, meaningless sound. 

CBT is a road map to developing a pro-recovery response to tinnitus. You'll learn new skills -- ways to think, act and attend to tinnitus -- to reduce emotional reactivity, redirect attention, and set the stage for habituation. Learn More...

It's not what tinnitus does, but what you do that matters. Practicing a neutral response is the surest path to habituation.