Tinnitus is unfortunately a prevalent problem, affecting approximately 50 million Americans over the age of 50. Tinnitus causes people who have it to hear constant sounds “in their heads” that people around them can’t hear – buzzing or roaring sounds, high-pitched whistling or ringing, or rapid clicking. Many people “learn to live with” their tinnitus, considering it more of an annoyance rather than a disorder. However for other people, this constant ringing in the ears produces additional symptoms of stress and distress, fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression.

Some forms of tinnitus respond well to treatment with hearing aids which are programmed to filter and suppress the ringing or buzzing sounds. In this article, we want to introduce you to an alternative tinnitus treatment known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). Using a combination of mechanisms, TRT “retrains” tinnitus sufferers and gives them the ability to reduce their perceptions of the noises they hear, so they no longer react to the sounds negatively, and thus eventually cease being bothered by them.

Created by Austrian neuroscientist Pawel Jastreboff in the 1980s, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is a radically different approach to tinnitus treatment. It challenges the assumption among most audiologists that tinnitus is the result of physical ear damage which cannot be reversed. Jastreboff has proposed an alternate model for tinnitus based on his background in behavioral neuroscience. This allowed him to disregard previous notions that the condition couldn’t be fixed, and focus his attention on developing behavioral modification techniques that could, indeed, fix it.

At the core of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is the proposition that tinnitus is not a disease in and of itself. Instead, Jastreboff believes that tinnitus is a manifestation of hyperacusis which is defined as an over-sensitivity to certain frequency ranges of sounds. A person with severe hyperacusis has difficulty tolerating everyday sounds. In his theory, it is not the buzzing sounds themselves that are a problem, and the distress they cause some people is due to an over reaction to the sounds. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is a form of individualized counseling perform by people with special training and qualifications. The sessions are very precise to each individual’s needs and aim to teach tinnitus sufferers to mentally curb their reactions to undesirable sounds by focusing on the desirable ones.

Counselors trained in TRT have had remarkable successes helping patient eliminate their negative reactions to the sounds they hear, thereby relieving distress.

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