Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people usually can’t hear it. Tinnitus is a common problem. It affects about 15% to 20% of people, and is especially common in older adults.
The term derives from the latin word “tinnire” , meaning to ring or tinkle like a bell. While many suffers do indeed hear bell like sounds, frequently people report hearing sounds of cicadas, voices of even musical tunes.
Many people who attend my clinic are unsure about how to pronounce “tinnitus”. While I have heard many pronunciations, the two that felt to be correct are, either TIN-ni-tus or ti-NIGHT-us.
While for many sufferers of tinnitus a hearing aid can offer significant help, a recent scientific study has found that a technique known as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can significantly reduce distress from tinnitus across a wide range of patients.
Mindfulness therapies have suggested that people who become distressed by tinnitus seem to react to tinnitus in a negative way, that is they may try to fight the tinnitus, they might obsessively monitor the tinnitus or worry that the tinnitus will eventually overwhelm them
Such reactions to tinnitus are understandable, but unfortunately can lead to long-term counterproductive effects, preventing both habituation and the discovery of alternative, more helpful responses. Mindfulness therapies offer a new approach, focusing on reducing the distress and living well.
Mindfulness therapies leads people to a radically different relationship with tinnitus, helping them to stop their exhausting fight with tinnitus and allow them to test out new ways of allowing tinnitus into awareness instead. This does not mean resignation or submission; it means experimenting with new ways of approaching tinnitus and then making an informed decision about what responses are most helpful. This can be challenging at first but practising mindful awareness of tinnitus can bring surprising discoveries: tinnitus may not be what you expect when you pay close attention, nor will it overwhelm you completely.