How to habituate? Part I
Before you can get used to something – I feel like you need to know what you are getting used to.
So inform yourself about tinnitus and how hearing works. I have written a post about it if you are interested just click below:
In order to habituate, I found it really useful to find out that there 4% of the German population have tinnitus, but only 1% of those 4% suffers. The others don´t get bothered by it or at least not that much that they suffer.
What I get asked or lot or even insulted with – that my tinnitus is not very loud and that I am not suffering because it is quiet. I know that would be an easy explanation and kind of makes sense….right? But that is not the truth, research shows that neither the kind of sound nor the volume are responsible for the suffering. There are people having a really quiet one, which impacts their live greatly and there are others with a really loud one that don´t seem to get affected at all.
How is that possible?
It is the meaning or significance we are giving our tinnitus. So it is the evaluation we make, if we evaluate it as something dangerous or threatening then we shift our entire attention and focus on it and we start to worry and ask ourselves all kind of weird questions like “Why me?” “Is it something serious?” “Where does it come from?” “Will it ever go away?” “Will it drive me crazy?” and so on…
So that means that not the tinnitus itself makes us feel so badly, but the constant focus we put on it as well as the negative evaluation.
I also wrote about that – read here:
Through the focus, the constant questioning and worry can be the kickstart or activation of the tinnitus spiral:
To calm you down further let me answer some questions for you:
Is tinnitus a severe illness?
99% of the cases it is not. It is caused through damaged hair cells, the cause can´t always be pinpointed but I listed the most common causes in the blog post I embedded before – What is tinnitus?
If there is some indication that it is due to an illness then it should of course get check out. But if your doctor nor your ENT don´t find something, and you might even get a second opinion from another ENT, then you should accept the fact that you are part of the 99%, who don´t suffer from an illness causing tinnitus. If you continue to look for other doctor even though an illness as a cause has been ruled out, you shift tinnitus more and more into your focus and attention – the worse you will feel.
Will it get louder over time?
Usually it doesn´t. If you focus more and more on it – obsess over it, then it will seem louder. Usually it gets quieter over time, as we learn to live with it and habituate – we notice it less and less.
Does it cause hearing loss?
Most definitely not. It is rather the other way around. It the ear is damaged some way it can cause hearing loss and when you have hearing loss the tinnitus can be a compensation technique by the brain due to that or the tinnitus gets noticed due to less outside noises that can be heard. Hearing aid can help in a way that outside noises can be heard again and through that tinnitus seams quieter again. Get your hearing checked if you feel like you have hearing loss. But know that it takes some time in order to get hearing aid adjusted, don´t get discouraged.
I don´t have hearing loss but sometimes I feel like I do, but my problem is the hearing filter. That can be trained again. I talk about it in this post:
Habituation – what does it mean?
It means, that usually if we are constantly exposed to the same sound – then we stop noticing it consciously. It is like the sound of a clock or of the fridge – if our brain decides that it isn´t an important sound it will start to not paying attention to it anymore. So it depends on our evaluation of our sound.
If you signalize our brain that this is something dangerous by thinking that something might not be good for us or ruin our life, then it will make sure to always notice it in order to observe it and to see what is happening with that sound. But if you signalize our brain that something is insignificant, then it won´t notice it consciously anymore even though the sound is still there.
That means if you constantly think how awful having tinnitus is, when you tell others constantly about it, complain about it, or even if you keep looking for a cure actively – stop fighting and start accepting.
Acceptance can lead to a state of not getting bothered by it anymore and even indifference – once that is happening it will seem like it has gotten less.
So as always acceptance is the key, read more about it here:
Another tip is to treat it like an external sound. We are able to shift our attention. That means if there is a sound we don´t need right now, we can kind of tune out. When you talk on the phone you can tune out the other ear to be able to concentrate more on the phone call. The same goes if we are using one of our other senses more at the moment we tune out with the other senses as we can´t concentrate on the same at once.
We are able to stir our attention for all our senses – so that means that you can learn to stir the attention away from tinnitus.
Through that principal it is possible to learn to tune out tinnitus and to accept it as part of the normal background noises.
Read more about it here:
Of course that is a process and doesn´t just happen. You need to train it and will be able to see changes.
- Tinnitus is always present and it limits you and feels unbearable
- From time to time you will be able to not notice it as much, especially if you are doing something that distracts you
- The awareness / perception will decrease more and more and mostly be there when you are tired or stressed, you don´t get irritated by it anymore
- You will think about it less and less – you will accept it. You will notice it mostly when you get reminded of if or there is a flare up. You don´t get bothered by it anymore.
This is the first blog post of a series in order to help you to habituate. We will talk about how you perceive tinnitus, what techniques you can use to relax, distract yourself an how to learn to not listen to it anymore. And ways to deal if you do hear it.
It will also help you to reduce and/or deal with triggers such as stress and tension.
What are your personal tinnitus goals? Write down three and make them positive. (NOT: I don´t want to hear it)
Also when you write down your goals make sure to keep it realistic – this is talking about habituation as there is no cure.