Tinnitus is defined as hearing a sound when there’s no outside acoustic stimulus. This sound can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. In 95% of cases, tinnitus is considered to be subjective, i.e based on no organic cause after a hearing test has been carried out. These sound impressions can be described as acute noises, whistling sounds, crackling sounds, buzzing or even roaring noises. Tinnitus can happen suddenly or occur progressively and become chronic.
In 90% of the cases chronic tinnitus is accompanied by a reduction in hearing. Hyperacusis is an abnormally intense response, painful at times, of the hearing system to noises and sounds. In France, 2,5 million people suffer from either tinnitus or hyperacusis. However the real figure probably reaches 8 million (source : National Day of Hearing, March 2014). As a matter of fact, these pathologies are unknown to the general public and a large number of people do not dare talk about it. The tinnitus mechanism is rather complex.
Certain people might be able to perfectly tolerate tinnitus, but others will not. This is not due to the nature of tinnitus itself but to the fact that it comes from the nervous system. Tinnitus therefore includes an emotional aspect. Generally, tiredness, worry and nervousness increase tinnitus. This might be due to:
- work overload,
- expatriation or move,
Of course, we do not want to generalize but the person suffering from tinnitus is often:
- anxious or worried,
- might face difficulty in expressing their needs,
- might find it hard to say no,
- has a tendency to keep control,
- or sometimes lacks self-esteem and self-confidence.
Men are concerned in majority, with a peak in the 51-60 age bracket. Deafness in the family is also an increasing factor for tinnitus.
After a complete hearing test, sophrology may be suggested to the person suffering from tinnitus to help with the condition. It is important to note that sophrology will not cure tinnitus or hyperacusis, but will be able to bring comfort to the sufferer, allowing the person to live better with the condition. It is a matter of helping the person to take distance from it, that is to say focusing less on the discomfort, and more on the body itself. This process is called “habituation”, a perfectly natural process for the brain. Sophrology will also allow the person to better manage stress, in particular when crises arise and will help the nervous system to calm down and hence reduce the perception of tinnitus. Stress will stop the habituation process, it is then essential to know how to handle it.
Each individual is unique, the sophrologist will adapt the sessions and techniques according to each individual and their own personal background. Here are some examples of techniques:
- conscious breathing (abdominal, thoracic, full) in order for the person to become aware of the ability to control their breathing and hence control their emotions and anxieties,
- dynamic relaxations and playful sophrology in order to be aware of the sensations in the body and move away the attention from tinnitus,
- relaxation (Jacobson, Schultz) in order to help the individual to let go and reduce their tensions,
- synchronic breathing to activate positivity and fight negative ideas,
- positive visualizations to regain one’s self-confidence,
- mindfulness in order to enrich the sound environment of the person who suffers from tinnitus, in order for them to be able to accept it.
Movements, exercises, and techniques taught during the sessions are simple and can be rehearsed at home. The idea is that the person should be autonomous and really active in handling tinnitus, in particular when a crisis arises.
A minimum of 6 sessions is advised. The number of sessions will depend on how the person reacts, feels and how much they practice. Usually, one session per week is required. It is highly recommended to practice the exercises at home to get better results.
please note that the sophrologist does not, in any case, replace an ENT specialist.