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What can be done for a wife with tinnitus?

29 Sep
A physician asks what can be done for his wife, who suffers from severe tinnitus (ringing & buzzing in the ears) and is so depressed, she hardly leaves the house…
Dear BR,
My wife is suffering from tinnitus of unknown etiology, untreatable by modern medicine (I am a physician myself) and she is at her wits end. It’s gotten to the point where she won’t leave the house or even visit with friends, because she gets so bothered by the ringing in her ears, she gets very upset. She is seriously depressed at this point and we are out of solutions. A friend suggested I write you to see if you have any suggestions. I’m clean out of ideas. Any thoughts?

Depressed and Debilitated in Detroit



Dear D & D in D,
There must be an upsurge in this miserable condition, because you are the 3rd person to write me about tinnitus in about as many weeks. Please take a look at the research abstracts I’ve posted this week on the Hot Research page, because they speak to this issue, and should give you and your wife some hope.

Because tinnitus is a problem of perception, mind-body interventions lend themselves very nicely to alleviating the distress, because they are, by their very nature, an exercise in the deliberate placement of attention elsewhere - to hopefully something compellingly pleasant, which can relegate the pesky noise to background. Thus guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, thought-stopping, general relaxation and other cognitive-behavioral techniques are all effective at alleviating distress. Yoga and Qigong would also serve this purpose.

Eventually, this is the adaptation that the brain eventually makes to this condition anyway - the noise is still there, but it gets noticed less and less. By giving your wife something she can actively do in the meantime, to refocus her attention, she will feel less helpless and victimized, and more empowered and in control; the noise will seem less, even if it isn’t, because her attention will be elsewhere; and she’ll be happier. The worst thing she can do is to keep noticing how annoying the noise is and how she can’t make it go away.

Of my guided imagery, I’d go with something like General Wellness, or Relieve Stress . Or I’d try David Illig’s Relieve Stress and Anxiety or Emmett Miller’s Ten-Minute Stress Manager. If she likes one or more of those, she can experiment with others.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award