Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as a Treatment for Tinnitus
Written by: Dr. Phoebe Clouser
Tinnitus is a debilitating condition that many people experience. Tinnitus is any perception of sound when there is no sound source present. It often presents as a ringing, humming or buzzing sound. Approximately 50 million Americans are impacted from some type of tinnitus (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2012). There is not one specific cause of tinnitus, subsequently; there is no specific cure to tinnitus. There are, however, many different options available in hopes of alleviating the distress accompanied by tinnitus.
Hearing aids are one of the most common treatment methods. Many audiologists turn to amplification as a first step for those patients with tinnitus and co-existing hearing loss. Frequently, the tinnitus is related to hearing loss and therefore once the hearing loss is managed, the tinnitus is also reduced. Hearing aids can also provide relief in the form of sound therapy. The hearing devices can play relaxing tones that cover up the bothersome tinnitus. Although hearing devices help many and often result in the reduction of tinnitus, it is not the simple fix for everyone.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another popular approach to manage tinnitus. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a psychological approach that aims to identify and ultimately adapt negative behaviors and cognitive processes in regards to the patients tinnitus. Treatment can consist of relaxation strategies, imagery and distraction methods, strict sleep schedules, and cognitive restructuring of thoughts and attitudes related to tinnitus (Andersson, 2002). Tinnitus has been reported to interrupt sleep, cause depression and anxiety and negatively impact daily life. Therefore, CBT is a logical approach that should be considered as a form of tinnitus management when hearing devices are not enough.
Too often those with tinnitus are told “there is nothing you can do.” You DO have options. Discuss with your audiologist what might work best for you.
Andersson, G., (2002). Psychological aspects of tinnitus and the application of cognitive behavioral therapy. Clinical Psychology Review. 2, 977-990.
Data derived from the 2011 – 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.