What is tinnitus?
Many people experience tinnitus – most typically, ringing in the ears, although other sounds are also heard – at some point in their lives. For many, tinnitus is temporary. Depending on whose statistic you read, the number affected at some point in their lives is thought to be between 15% and 30% of the population. About 1% suffers from tinnitus so badly that it has a serious effect on their lives. Tinnitus is often first noticeable after you have been exposed to loud noise – in the working environment, at a concert, or hearing a firework go off in close proximity, for example. For the vast majority of such people tinnitus is temporary, lasting from 24 hours to a week or so. Everyone experiences tinnitus differently – some find it is constant, some find it comes and goes. The noise which is heard is described by tinnitus sufferers in many different ways – ears ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, whistling, or like the noise which crickets make. Some people also experience a loss of balance.
Objective tinnitus and subjective tinnitus
Some noises in the head can be heard by other people – a doctor with a stethoscope can hear your blood flowing, your neck creaking or your jaw working. Sometimes tinnitus can be heard with a stethoscope by another person. This is called objective tinnitus. Sometimes the noise can only be heard by you, and can’t he beard by anyone else – but to you, the person whose cochlea is making tinnitus, it is all too audible, because it is produced inside the microphone. When the noise is inaudible to a third party, this is called subjective tinnitus.
It is thought that most people have some sorts of ear noise, or noise inside their head, all of the time – if we were in a sound proofed both, with no other noise, most of us would experience tinnitus. However, most people don’t notice the slight background ringing in the ears for the majority of the time, because they are distracted by the noise going on around them. Their attention is drawn away from the internal noise by the various external noises. However, when your hearing has been damaged, whether temporarily or permanently, the distraction of other noises is absent, thus making you more aware of your ears ringing.
Tinnitus and insomnia
Many people who have tinnitus find that their sleep is affected, with about half of all tinnitus sufferers also struggling with insomnia, with many reporting that their tinnitus is worse at night. The steps specifically advised to help tinnitus will also help you to sleep better; avoiding stimulants (coffee or Coke for example will increase blood flow, thus making the tinnitus seem louder, whilst the caffeine will also keep you awake), exercise, learning relaxation techniques, and learning to reduce your anxiety. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy are also extremely effective for reducing the stress caused by the inability to sleep and the vicious circle that can arise from this – not sleeping, worrying about not sleeping, which then makes you unable to sleep – and so on.
What causes tinnitus?
There is no one single cause, and often the cause remains unknown. Some cases of tinnitus are associated with hearing loss. The cause of the hearing loss makes no difference – it can be due to damage caused by noise, by age, by infection in the ear, or due to a blockage – earwax in the external auditory canal for example, or caused by medication.
Whatever the cause, stress and anxiety play a significant role in tinnitus. As with Irritable Bowel Syndrome – IBS, tinnitus is one of many physical conditions widely thought to be made worse by stress. Sometimes people who suffer from tinnitus also suffered from stress, anxiety or depression before they became aware of the ringing in their ears; and sometimes anxiety and stress is brought about by the onset of tinnitus. Your hearing is part of your general nervous system and so is sensitive to everything that affects overall health; and stress is known beyond doubt to have a direct effect on the body.
It is recommended that before seeking hypnotherapy to help with tinnitus you rule out any underlying physical problems by undergoing medical examination with your GP or an ENT (ear, nose and throat) consultant.
Is there a cure for tinnitus?
Many people panic when they have tinnitus because they may have heard that there is “no cure”. All that means is that there isn’t one single method which can be guaranteed to work for absolutely everybody, so that they will never experience it again – in the same way that there is no “cure for cancer” or a cure for bad backs – but there are millions of people walking around who have benefitted from treatments they have received. There are many treatments which are recognised to help tinnitus and the stress, anxiety and depression so often linked with it. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and relaxation techniques are methods which are known to work. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks at your thoughts, beliefs, behaviours and assumptions about tinnitus. As with any illness there are emotions, fears and feelings attached, and CBT allows you to deal with these and to re-focus your thoughts. The deep sense of relaxation necessary for hypnosis also allows you to feel comfortable and untroubled – so much so that many sufferers report that they do not notice the tinnitus at all whilst in hypnosis.
How do hypnotherapy, hypnosis and CBT help to relieve tinnitus?
One of the most effective ways to treat tinnitus is to help you “switch off” from the noise; helping you to reduce your awareness of it. It’s like not noticing a clock ticking, or the way that you breathe, or blink, or the fact that your new shoes are pinching – as with many everyday sensations, you simply fail to notice them until your attention is drawn to them. Hypnotherapy and hypnosis allow you to attain a state of very deep relaxation – to the point where the noise of the tinnitus just gets quieter and quieter.
You will be taught self hypnosis and relaxation techniques to enable you to attain the same state of relaxation whenever you need to. You will learn to focus your attention away from the noise and towards other sensations which are pleasant and relaxing. The deep state of relaxation which you feel when in hypnosis allows the body to become less tense and this alone will help tinnitus – many sufferers find that the problem is worsened by bodily tension, for example clenching of the jaw. Just feeling more relaxed also enables you to deal much better with the anxiety that tinnitus can cause. In addition to allowing you to spend extended periods in a state of deep relaxation, hypnosis allows specific suggestions to be made to you about dealing with your tinnitus, at a time when your mind is very receptive to and focused on such suggestions.
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