As I get ready to launch my new book, I wanted to take a deeper dive into the problem of tinnitus.
On the surface, it seems pretty straight forward – tinnitus is the perception of noise when there is no actual noise.
Some people hear ringing, some hear whooshing, clicks, static, or a wide variety of other noises. Regardless of what you hear, it’s safe to say that it can drive you crazy.
Because we end up spending way too much much time and energy worrying about how loud it seems or what it sounds like. We look for ways to drown it out and miracle cures to quiet it down.
But I believe it’s the wrong approach.
The only question that really matters is: “Does it bother you?”
Because if it does, you have options. It’s the one part of your tinnitus that you actually have the power to change.
If you are suffering right now, I want you to understand that while there may not be a cure, or a reliable way to reduce the volume, you can get to a place where it stops bothering you and dramatically improve your quality of life.
Most people never think of their treatment in those terms.
And that’s because there is a lot more going on with tinnitus than meets the eyes.
The Noise is Not the Problem:
I would argue that the noise itself isn’t even the problem you should be focusing on because you can’t control the noise.
The real issue is our reaction to the sound. Our brains are fully capable of eliminating annoying background noise from our conscious awareness with a mental process called habituation. It’s how we were able to carry on conversations in loud places.
The problem is that it’s just not possible to tune out a sound that our brain interprets as stressful, annoying, or threatening, all of which can describe tinnitus.
It makes sense when you think about it. You would never want to not hear the sound of something dangerous.
But our brains also can’t tell the difference between a perceived threat and real danger. It’s why people have a stress response when speaking in public. And it’s also why tinnitus can start to bother us so much.
We react to the sound physically and emotionally as if we’re in danger.
And you don’t have to have tinnitus to understand what that’s like. Most people have encountered terrible, stressful sounds, like nails on a chalkboard, at some point in their life.
But with tinnitus, because the sound never goes away, we become stuck in a vicious cycle
The good news is that the one thing that we actually can change just so happens to be the very thing that prevents us from habituating and finding relief. We have the power to change our reaction to the sound.
It’s not easy, because our reaction becomes a conditioned response and happens automatically, but it’s possible, and that’s all that matters.
There may not be a cure, but there is a way forward.
We can focus our energy on changing our response to the sound and dramatically improve our quality of life.
Next week in part 2, I will be covering some of the specific actions, tools, and techniques that you can use to actually change your response to the sound of your tinnitus.