Tinnitus is a medical term for auditory perceptions heard in the ear(s) or head, but not produced by external sound. This sound, which is often described as a ringing, buzzing, pulsing, whistling, or humming noise, can be experienced in one or both ears with varying loudness and pitch.
For those who experience tinnitus bothersome enough to consult their doctor, tinnitus is most commonly associated with symptoms of anxiety, distress, sleep disturbance, and depression. Poor attention and concentration, interference with work, and negative impact on personal relationships are commonly reported by patients. Almost all patients indicate that stress or tension makes their tinnitus worse.
People with tinnitus often experience symptoms accompanied by unfounded fears that their condition may worsen, that their tinnitus may be a sign of a brain tumor, or may indicate impending or progressive hearing loss. A struggle may develop between the person and the tinnitus, which can lead to symptoms of fatigue, depression, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and interpersonal problems, all of which can impede functioning in day-to-day life.
In therapy with Dr. Gans, using a mindfulness-based approach, a person with tinnitus can be taught to change his or her relationship to the tinnitus in an effort to lessen or eliminate this struggle.
Click below to listen to Dr. Gans' profile on National Public Radio.