Tinnitus has been described by Dr. Pawel J. Jastreboff as a “phantom auditory perception.” This means that the brain perceives sound even in the absence of any external sound. It is important to note that nearly everyone experiences tinnitus at some point in their life but they are not necessarily bothered by it. However, some people are negatively affected by their tinnitus, which can cause great distress. Tinnitus can occur with or without hearing loss.
The good news is that tinnitus can be managed with Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). Developed in 1990 by neurologist Dr. Pawel J. Jastreboff and audiologist Jonathan Hazell, TRT is the gold standard for tinnitus treatment. For individuals whose tinnitus has become a significant annoyance, a systematic approach to ‘habituate’ to their condition can be delivered through TRT.
To understand how TRT works, it is important to understand tinnitus in greater detail. Tinnitus can be divided into two components. The first component is the auditory component, or the perception of the tinnitus (arises from the inner ear and auditory centers in the brain).
The second component is the non-auditory component and this refers to the ‘bothersome’ nature of tinnitus. This non-auditory component arises from the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) and the autonomic nervous system (the brain’s ‘alert system’ designed to give the message to the individual to ‘fight’ or ‘flee’ from a dangerous situation). When the limbic system is activated by the tinnitus, the individual may feel a sense of extreme discomfort or panic.
TRT can help a person grow accustomed to their tinnitus. This means reaching a state of mind where there is no longer a negative emotional response to the tinnitus.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy can be delivered by CHS Audiologists, who have received specialized training in this therapeutic model. TRT includes:
- Directive Counselling: Intensive client education about the auditory mechanism and the role the brain plays in tinnitus perception. With education, the tinnitus will be demystified. This will help reduce distress and anxiety about the tinnitus.
- Sound Therapy: Use of ear level or table-top sound generators and/or hearing aids to provide continuous stimulation of the auditory system to interfere with the perception of tinnitus. This would also include the use of environmental sounds. This will also help reduce distress and anxiety about the tinnitus.
- Time: It takes time for the brain to habituate to the perception of tinnitus. Most clients report a noticeable improvement in as little as 6-8 weeks. The duration of the TRT program can last between 16 – 24 months.
Regardless of the cause of the tinnitus, with or without hearings loss, the success rate of TRT is 80%. This is the highest success rate of any treatment or therapy currently available. The effects of TRT are long-lasting and there are no side effects.