How can a hearing therapist help me?
Seeing a hearing therapist should help you explore your experience of tinnitus, and be listened to by someone who understands.
You will be able to work together to find ways to help your individual situation.
If you think you could benefit from referral to a hearing therapist and you are already under the care of a hospital, speak to your audiologist / ENT specialist. If you are not, speak to your GP for information about the services in your area.
What questions will the hearing therapist ask me?
The hearing therapist will want to understand your individual experience of tinnitus. So they'll ask questions like:
- What does your tinnitus sound like?
- What happened at its onset?
- Does anything make your tinnitus better or worse?
- What sort of feelings does your tinnitus evoke?
- Does your tinnitus affect your concentration and sleep?
What will the hearing therapist do next?
Once you've talked about these questions, your therapist will be in a better position to think about the ways in which the tinnitus can best be managed. This will allow you and the therapist to devise a plan tailored to your individual needs.
As part of this process, the therapist will probably take time to explain how we hear, and to talk to you about what we currently know about tinnitus, how it is generated, and the role of the brain in our perception of sound.
How will discussing the role of the brain in the perception of sound help my tinnitus?
Your hearing therapist may well talk about the process of 'habituation'. Habituation is the process by which the brain learns to tune out sounds.
The way our brain evaluates and processes sounds is influenced by the meaning they have for us, and the feelings they evoke.
Although it may take time, it can be possible to change the way our brain responds to tinnitus, which may mean that it is less obstructive.
This is why, for example, a parent could be woken by the quiet noise of a distressed child at night, but sleep through a thunderstorm.As one of our advisors explains: "If a baby is snivelling at night, while this is a quiet or weak sound, a parent who is sleeping nearby is likely to wake because the meaning of the sound is significant (there may be all sorts of feelings associated with the sound like fear, concern, love and worry). Later, once the parent is asleep and the baby is settled, there could be a thunderstorm which is much louder in decibels but the parent may sleep through it. The brain responds to the thunderstorm as a neutral event, not requiring a response and therefore tunes it out."
What treatment options might we discuss?
There are a range of different treatment options, and you and your therapist will be working together to find the ones that will help you most. They could include:
- Hearing aids (if you have a hearing loss)
- Sound therapy
- Relaxation therapy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness
What does cognitive behavioural therapy entail? What is mindfulness?
These are two therapeutic approaches that your hearing therapist might draw on during your treatment.
CBT is a way of understanding how our beliefs and behaviour can influence how we feel.
Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way of coping with stress, pain, and other difficult or unpleasant experiences.
One of our advisors explains how this can help with your tinnitus:
"Mindfulness can be seen as a way of practising 'being' with the tinnitus rather than trying to 'do' something about it. Although 'fighting' tinnitus and trying to get rid of it is a natural and understandable response, it tends not to help very much. Mindfulness is used to help the patient learn and respond to the tinnitus in a different way that is often kinder and more helpful than trying to fix it."