Does the severeness of our tinnitus depend on our emotions?
No, it´s not. Why is it that some people suffer so baldy when having tinnitus and others not? It all depends on our perception of our tinnitus!
If you connect your tinnitus with negative feelings, you will suffer more than the ones not having made that negative connection. Having that negative perception can even lead to your tinnitus causing in itself such a high stress level that makes then your tinnitus worse and worse and worse . . .
For instance, most people who write to me tell me that their tinnitus is at its worst at night. It might seems so, but it is not the case. It is just more noticeable as there are less outside noises. When there are less outside noises you notice your tinnitus more, it makes it seem like it is louder than during the day.
So when you are lying in bed at night and your tinnitus seems super loud again, not letting you sleep. What happens next? Your focus shifts more and more to your tinnitus and you keep noticing it more and more….driving you crazy. You start having all those thoughts like “This tinnitus is making my life a living hell…now it doesn´t even let me sleep…if I don´t go to sleep soon I will be super tired tomorrow”. This then leads a strong negative reaction: anger, fear, resentment, desperation, a feeling of not having power and tension, which causes an even bigger negative impact on not being able to sleep.
That is then a vicious cycle you enter and which is so hard to break free from. Like I said before this vicious cycle can be set off even by your tinnitus itself. How? Just by putting all your attention on your tinnitus, meaning if you think constantly about it. If you worry all the time what your future with tinnitus will look like and keep searching low and high for new treatment options. If you worry all the time that your tinnitus will ruin your life.
Of course the more you experience that cycle (meaning the more you focus on your tinnitus and the more you perceive it negative) the more your will notice your tinnitus and the more you will experience it as a burden and an impairment.
How to do that?
And as always habituation is the key here too. If you habituate, the negative perception will go away as your focus is not on your tinnitus anymore. And you´ll be free.
Do you remember that loud annoying clock, the ticking that drove you crazy? Do you still hear it or did you just get used to it? Your brain decided that the ticking of that clock wasn´t important and that there was no need to react to it. You habituated.
Habituation is not a process that you have to learn, it is a natural reaction. We can´t focus on everything at the same time. So we decide or rather our brain decides for us, what is important right in that instance and focuses on that sound and shuts the others down.
Like before your tinnitus, when you were in a full restaurant and talked to a friend you probably didn´t even realize that there were so many other conversations going on, as were focused on the one you were having. And the other ones weren´t relevant for you.
Our attention always shifts to things that are new to us, are important or dangerous or to things to which we have to react. At the same time we shift our focus away from things that are considered as not important or just normal sound sources.
Hence the process is connected with our emotions. Like if you are living close to train tracks, a few days after moving in you will notice it less and less until you don´t even hear it anymore. You just get used to it, you habituate.
BUT, if you didn´t want to move there in the first place it might all be different. Maybe you still were a child and your parents made you to. You will see the noise produced by the trains as an punishment you are not able to stand. You won´t get used to the sound and it will impact your life.
So as you can see, habituation is a totally normal process that happens all the time in our normal life. But it can only happen if we don´t perceive something as negative or put it in the focus of our attention.
How does our tinnitus become the focus of our attention?
- If we constantly try to check how it sounds right now and if it changed in volume or frequency
- If we are all the time super angry about the fact that we have tinnitus
- If we are thinking about it all the time
- If we are constantly worrying about the future with tinnitus.
- If you blame your tinnitus for not doing as much anymore and for putting down your hobbys
- If you keep taking your tinnitus as super important by looking for new treatment options constantly
- If you are afraid of not being able to work due to your tinnitus
- If you are constantly afraid that you tinnitus will keep you from getting a good night sleep and because of that you won´t be able to work properly.
- If you are afraid that your tinnitus will influence your health negatively as a sign of a more serious illness
So how can you shift your attention away from your tinnitus?
Work with your senses!
It can be anything basically. What do you drink in the morning or what do you eat in the morning? Start with your food or drink and put all your focus on it. What does it look like? Notice every little detail of it and then taste it. What flavors can you taste? What else catches your attention? Don´t just eat or drink . . . experience your breakfast!
Another exercise is a normal shift wherever you are. So for instance right now.
Where are you right now?
What other noises can you hear?
What is that sound like?
Is it loud or quiet?
Do you like it or not?
How do you feel when you hear that it?
Try to analyze and experience the sounds around you as much as you can!
I try to do that as often as I can. In the beginning I tried to never be in silence. I had always something on or I always listened to music. Of course masking is important to not go crazy, but not a good way to habituate. If you ever want to live a normal life again, you need to habituate.
For that you need to shift your attention away from your tinnitus and you need to get rid of the negative perception of it.
I can´t go all the time without masking, so I do like an interval training. I mask the tinnitus and then I try to shift my attention for some time. When I notice that I start to bring in negativity again, then I put on music or movie. And that is basically how I do it all day long when I´m at home. At work I try to not put music on to not mask, as I´m usually pretty busy at work it is easy there.