Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

Tinnitus takes the joy of sound away from us. It comes and goes, disrupts conversations, distorts music, and is a tiresome result of a corrupted auditory system. The sounds are only present to the person that suffers from Tinnitus.

It can last from several months to an average of almost 7 years and is considered chronic if it lasts past 3 months.

Why does it occur? 

The exact cause is yet to be determined but the majority of cases have a level of hearing loss. 

A brief look into the many commonalities linked to cases of Tinnitus:

  • Noise exposure. Many people experience tinnitus after being exposed to loud noise in a workplace setting or at a sporting event or concert…
  • Hearing loss. Hearing loss, which can be caused by factors such as aging or exposure to loud noise…
  • Medications. Tinnitus can be a side effect of taking certain medications, especially if they are taken at high doses…
  • Earwax or an ear infection…
  • Head or neck injuries…”

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (CICD) does give us a dominating theory for the purely physiological causes of Tinnitus. 

The sounds are caused by nerves that are impaired. Signals from the nerves are passed to the brain. They are actually “ghost sounds” since they don’t occur within the ear at all. 

The consensus is that they are created in a part of the brain called the “auditory cortex.” 

What do these sounds resemble? 

  • Buzzing
  • Ringing
  • Clicking
  • Swooshing
  • Humming 
  • Whistling
  • Ringing
  • Hissing

They can range from loud to soft and high or low pitched and appear at different intervals for varied amounts of time.

Where do we hear them? In your head and/or in one or both ears. 

Needless to say it all sounds infuriating. For some of us that are already predisposed to anxiety and depression it only makes matters worse.

What can we do?

Since the only thing we can be sure of is that only we can hear them, then the challenge is not let the perception of the sounds take over our entire mindset. 

It is much easier said than done for some of us.

The American Tinnitus Association has some useful resources for support groups, volunteer networks, and advisors. Their website also features personal stories from a variety of people, one of whom is William Shatner!

Since there are no cures and Tinnitus varies in so many degrees from case to case the most empowering way forward would be to find a way that suits you to be able to manage the condition.

The following are some techniques that many have found useful to distract us from the pervasive sounds of Tinnitus. 

  1. Sound machines  and hearing aids work more on the premise of “masking” the sounds. This means pulling the attention of the brain to a different source of sound so the focus is moved from Tinnitus. Certain sounds can also incorporate and envelop the “ghost sounds” so that they are no longer so prevalent. 

Even radios at a higher volume can have this effect.

  1. Behavioural therapy has been known to help as it focuses more on controlling one’s reaction to the sounds as opposed to the sounds themselves. In an assessment of the data available on Tinnitus including 31 studies ranging from randomized trial to reviews of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approaches, the 2014 concluded that the “Treatment strategy might best be CBT-based, moving toward a more multidisciplinary approach.”
  2. Wearable sound generators also known as maskers.They can be worn in the ear or fixed outside depending on what feels best to you. They amplify soft sounds and are popular for their portability and the convenience of phone apps for their modifications according to users’ needs. 

It is not unusual for medications to be prescribed to help with anxiety and depression until a person has found a way to overcome the intrusive sounds of Tinnitus.

Make sure to speak to  your hearing health professional so that your options can be further explored.

If you or someone you love needs further guidance and support we are only a phone call away!