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Tinnitus Habituation Crash Course

This information is taken from the page on my website devoted to my tinnitus Consultation service. A long read, but it gives great insight into this valuable service. If you‘re not local to Brighouse, I can deliver the consultation by video meeting.

Contact me to arrange your consultation.


There are many devices, herbs and treatments out there that are being touted as tinnitus cures. The evidence for herbal cures is nil. The evidence for devices to cure tinnitus is slim to nil. Treatments such as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy have been found to be no more useful than information (this was the subject of my research project). Audiologists are not taught about tinnitus enough, and have to go out and discover the information. I had half of one lecture devoted to it in a 3 year degree. Luckily I am married to a psychologist who researches it, and have a well-developed understanding and a thirst for knowledge and education. I have also had tinnitus myself for over 20 years - and although it is there daily, I have habituated to it successfully and am not bothered by it. This is an important point: it is possible to have 'severe' (i.e. chronic, loud) tinnitus and not be bothered by it. Audiologists and GPs tend to dislike tinnitus because there is no 'cure' that can make it disappear completely. However millions of people have habituated to it successfully and are seldom bothered by it. My approach is to take what those people learnt to do naturally, and teach it to everyone who is still suffering. With this in mind, I have developed a single 'consultation' appointment which you can purchase even if you are not a hearing care customer. During a two hour period in a comfortable environment, you will find out everything there is to know about tinnitus. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, we will relate the information given back to your own experiences. We will check your understanding to ensure you completely understand what has been covered. The key points of the lessons are below.

Lesson One: Tinnitus is Not Sound

Tinnitus is your sensory reception gone astray. It is not a physical sound. It doesn't have sound attributes such as volume, and it does not have an external source that cannot be controlled (like a car alarm). We do not know precisely where tinnitus arises in the auditory pathway and we don't need to, but it is thought in many cases to be caused by misfirings from a damaged cochlea (inner ear). These false signals are interpreted by the brain as sound, but they are not physically sound and there are key differences in the way we hear tinnitus because of this.

Lesson Two: Sensory Information is Subjective

The amount of ‘attention’ (both conscious and subconscious) paid to your sensory signals dictates how intense or prominent they are. If you are wearing socks/shoes, take a moment to think about them. As you do so, you should become aware of the feeling of them against your skin, even if you didn't notice them since early morning. It is similar with sounds; if you concentrate on a sound in your home it will 'come forward' and become more prominent while other environmental sounds might seem to fade back. If you’re hard of hearing, you’ll be familiar with having to concentrate and look at a person in order to effectively hear what they are saying when there is background noise or others talking. Senses have to work selectively in this way, because if we were aware of everything, all the time, we would not be able to function in our noisy, bright world. The brain automatically prioritises sounds and presents them to you, and you can manually override this process to some extent by concentrating.

Lesson Three: Sufferers Suffer More - But Their Tinnitus Isn't Necessarily "Worse"

There are a lot of people with tinnitus. Some are crippled by it, and some are not. I have constant tinnitus, but I am not bothered by it, and forget it most of each day. This is what we call habituation - getting used to tinnitus such that it is not bothering us. Constant sound that isn’t always heard seems to be a contradiction, but it is true. The main difference between people who suffer and those who have 'habituated', is not necessarily the measurable severity of their tinnitus (e.g. how loudly it is perceived, how many hours of the day they hear it). People who suffer with tinnitus are responding to their tinnitus differently than someone who is habituated. There is nothing preventing a tinnitus sufferer from habituating, and 98% of those with tinnitus will habituate to it in time.

Lesson Four: Two Types of Attention

Attention feeds tinnitus, in that the more you concentrate on the signal, the more prominent it will become compared to physical sounds in the environment (you can try this yourself to prove it). There are two types of attention: conscious and subconscious. Conscious attention to tinnitus (e.g. concentrating and/or speaking to yourself inside your head) can be resolved for many with a few simple-to-learn exercises in how to divert your brain from inflating the tinnitus signal. You can indeed control this and you can learn to make the tinnitus go away or vastly reduce in 'volume', a lot of the time. The other type is subconscious, and this is more tricky.

Lesson Five: The Stress Response Influences Your Subconscious Attention

When a human is stressed out, they go through biological changes known widely as the 'stress response' and 'fight or flight' (biologically - the HPA Axis and the SAM Axis). One of the consequences of this is that sensory input is magnified. Subconsciously, the brain under stress will gives priority to sounds and sights it thinks are threatening; it can mistake tinnitus as an important sound and present the tinnitus signal prominently. Although not a genuine sound, the tinnitus noise can become larger than life, and can even drown out environmental sounds. This subconscious attention is trickier to control, but it can be influenced greatly by using listening/attention diversion techniques and relieving stress where possible. The relationship between stress and tinnitus means that working on your stress levels is the best thing you can do for tinnitus.

Lesson Six: You Can Change Your Tinnitus

Success in tinnitus interventions/treatments comes about because the person gets a thorough understanding of tinnitus, realises they can influence it, realises it is not harmful, realises it is a natural part of them self and learns to manage with it. There is absolutely nothing different about you - you can do that too. It might require a shift in your perception and learning which diversion, thought or masking technique is best for you. You will need to frame your goals and be willing to listen and learn. You will need to accept the goal of tinnitus habituation is not necessarily silence, but being comfortable. All these points and more - along with personalised analysis, support and management techniques - will be covered in your tinnitus consultation. Contact me to discuss whether a consultation is the right option for you, and book one in if so.

This is a brief look into the topics covered. We will cover techniques to start managing your tinnitus immediately. At the end of the consultation you should be bursting with ideas and positivity about how you are going to tackle your tinnitus! For many people this is all they need, some will wish to pursue more support and do so safe in the knowledge that it will be worthwhile. Having got to know you and your unique experience, I can explain and recommend an evidence-based intervention you may be interested in exploring. Current consultation pricing is in the Prices tab. Your consultation fee also includes printed materials to back up your learning, and a short follow-up session by email or phone.

Contact Sally at Hearing and Tinnitus Care to book your personal tinnitus consultation today.

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