by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
January 3, 2016
If you have tinnitus you need to stop focusing on your tinnitus. Constantly and repetitiously mulling over your tinnitus will only make your tinnitus worse. Therefore, you need to consciously choose not to dwell on it.
Instead, focus on living a happy productive life. Get involved in fun activities, productive projects, and the loves of your life. When you are thoroughly wrapped up in something that is exciting or enticing to you, your tinnitus will not be important enough for your brain to even bother decoding it.
As I have said numerous times to people with tinnitus, “Did you ever notice that when you are passionately kissing your spouse, you don’t hear your tinnitus?” They all get a surprised look on their faces, followed by a knowing look as they realize this is true.
Only one person ever said that he could still hear his tinnitus, to which I retorted, “Obviously you weren’t passionately kissing your wife!”
It’s interesting that those of us who spend time helping people deal with their tinnitus find our tinnitus (if we have tinnitus) becomes considerably louder at the same time because we are focusing on tinnitus by talking or writing about it.
One man noted, “My tinnitus comes on whenever I think of it.” I pointed out to him that it is not strange at all, but a good thing because it shows that he is completely habituated to his tinnitus. Thus the only times he really notices his tinnitus is when he thinks about it.
Most of the time I’m the same way. I can go for hours without even realizing I have tinnitus (although it is always there), but then someone phones me or emails me wanting help dealing with their tinnitus and immediately, “there it is”. My tinnitus becomes much louder and more intrusive. It’s ringing away pretty loudly right now as I write this.
Here is a typical example. Let’s say I am working away at my desk and am not aware of my tinnitus at the moment. Then the phone rings. Someone wants help with their tinnitus. Almost immediately I hear my tinnitus louder than I hear my own voice over the phone and that’s pretty loud. (I wear a binaural headset so both ears hear.) This lasts as long as I am on the phone–typically an hour or two. But the good news is that within a few minutes after I hang up the phone and return to what I was doing, my tinnitus drops to its old level and I may no longer be aware of it anymore.
The same thing happens to numbers of us who help people with tinnitus. It’s an occupational hazard of the job. I know my audiologist has a tinnitus clinic. Thus, he works with people with tinnitus a lot. He also has tinnitus himself. He told me he has the same experiences as I do.
This illustrates just how important it is not to focus or think about your tinnitus if you want to bring your tinnitus under control. If this happens to tinnitus professionals who understand, and are thoroughly habituated to, their tinnitus, think how much more it affects people who do not understand tinnitus and are actively worrying about their tinnitus?
That is why we tell people to focus on the loves of their lives and forget about their tinnitus. However, it is hard for me to do this because I am often researching and writing about tinnitus. For example, I am currently updating the 7th edition of my book on tinnitus. So guess who has a problem with their tinnitus at the moment?
Now here’s the good news. Even after hearing my tinnitus most of the day, whenever I focus on other things, my tinnitus calms right down because I am so habituated to my tinnitus.
This can happen to you too. Your tinnitus can seem to disappear, but this only happens if you become truly habituated to your tinnitus. And that only happens if you totally ignore your tinnitus. And that only happens if you do not attach any emotional significance to your tinnitus. And that only happens if you do not see your tinnitus as a threat to your well-being. So that is where you have to begin working on your tinnitus in order to successfully deal with it.
The above article is condensed from Chapter 17 in the 7th edition of my book, “Take Control of Your Tinnitus—Here’s How“. (The title used to be “When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How” in previous editions). I have extensively revised and updated this edition with the latest in tinnitus research and treatment as of January, 2016.