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Derek S. Tinnitus and TMS

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Happiness comes first, Sep 17, 2014.

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    Hi there,

    My question is regarding tinnitus and can be asked in either a short or a long version.

    Short version - is all tinnitus TMS?

    Long version - I've struggled with tinnitus as a on and off shifting symptom for about half a year now. It didn't start with a loud noise, instead I rather just woke up with it one day in a period of loneliness and anxiety. It has been OK recently, and it, along with other symptoms has almost ceased. However, two days ago, I was exposed to a loud schreeching noise for a few seconds while trying to get my speaker system in order. Since then it has been worse again. The thought pattern has gone a little crazy and I am back in the fear/anxiety-mode. So with that in mind, my longer version of the question goes like this. Is it reasonable to think tinnitus as an intial injury (ear drum or w/e) followed by healing from the physical angle and then TMS choosing it as a anxiety-site to "use" because I personally fear it? Or could it be that I now injured my ear and forever and ever will have the whizzing noise in my ear?

    Moreover, I have been cleared and rubber-stamped with TMS from a doc and I got all the personality traits and as mentioned do suffer some pain symptoms as well. Many of these have faded considerably and my main focus has shifted to tinnitus. And yes, I see the pattern. :)

    Thank you for your answer. Hopefully this can interest others as well.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2014
    richard13 and Forest like this.
  2. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Hi Happiness,

    Welcome to the TMS Wiki!

    This is a great question that I feel is a very important topic. I have been seeing more and more clients clinically who present with tinnitus as either a primary symptom or part of an array of symptoms that are, in most cases, TMS.

    Can tinnitus be a TMS symptom?

    Absolutely. Yes, yes, yes. Stress and emotional distress are the most common causes of tinnitus.

    Is tinnitus always TMS?

    Usually, but not always. There are some structural causes of tinnitus and I would suggest that you rule these out with a physician. That said, if there is no clear damage to the ear(s), it is almost certainly psycho-emotional.

    Tinnitus is a compelling symptom that can cause a massive amount of fear. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better description than yours:

    "...tinnitus as an initial injury (ear drum or w/e) followed by healing from the physical angle and then TMS choosing it as an anxiety-site to "use" because I personally fear it."

    In your case, however, I'm not convinced that there was an initial trauma to your ear. Rather, you experienced a ringing in your ear (which happens to many people, myself included) during an especially vulnerable time in your life, and your brain took note of the fear that it generated. This alone could have created the neural pathway to eventually replicate the symptom.

    Now you set up your stereo and hear a screech, which causes enough fear to make your brain jump the tracks and settle back on to that previously established neural pathway. And away we go.....

    It is clear that you really understand the TMS mechanism and pattern. Your anxiety/mindbody explanation is MUCH more likely than the structural alternative, especially given your history of TMS symptom imperative.

    Timnitus is something that scares the living shit out of you and it feels different from your usual symptoms. That means that your TMS brain is going to try to seduce you with all of the unknowns and work hard to convince you that this symptom is different from all the rest. I'm sure this sounds familiar to you.

    If structural causes are ruled out, treat this like you would any other symptom. Reject it's power and validity and don't indulge in the fear. It will not hurt you and you can make it go away, like you have done many times before with a host of other TMS symptoms.

    Best of luck and keep at it.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

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  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great question and great username, @Happiness comes first. I think that your quote above says it all. Once the TMS gets you into the fear/anxiety mode and your thoughts start getting distracted, the pain cycle has begun. I'm really glad that you reached out and hope that @Derek Sapico's excellent answer helped.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    If I don't think about my Tinnitus, I don't hear it.
    It came on when I was about 30 and I'm 84 now. I consider it one of my least symptoms.
    I doubt you blew your ears with a burst of loud sound. You were probably just stressed about something.
    Don't let it worry you. Try to tune it out with peaceful, calming distractions.
  5. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    HappinessComesFirst- What a GREAT name! Your title post caught my eye…or should I say, ear. We are in the throws of a move - lots of chaos and activity. So out of the blue, tinnitus.

    I'm reminded of a anecdote that involved some powerful minister (sorry, can't remember the name). It is said he woke up one night and saw the devil standing at the foot of his bed. He said, "Oh, it's you," and he yawned, rolled over and went back to sleep.

    I like to think of that story when some new twinge or pain arises compliments of TMS. "Oh, it's you, TMS." And pay it no never mind. :D
  6. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    "...you experienced a ringing in your ear ... during an especially vulnerable time in your life, and your brain took note of the fear that it generated. This alone could have created the neural pathway to eventually replicate the symptom."

    Thank you for this, Derek! It's a really concise and useful description of the TMS process. Not only that, I often notice hyper-sensitivity in my ears, in addition to short episodes of tinnitus - and although I always assume it's TMS, I'm thinking now that it might serve me to take a moment and let my system calm down when it happens. In other words, acknowledge that I'm receiving a message which can guide me to a better state.

    Dfw, Forest, North Star and 1 other person like this.
  7. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    This has been another one of those occasions when I have read about a TMS symptom on the Forum, and even though I haven't had that symptom for over a decade--the next day.....tinnitus:eek:

    However, I was able to say "Oh, it's you, TMS" and it was gone in a minute. :cool:
  8. Wonderful answer Derek. Even though I've read TheMBP and SteveOs book several times it hasnt really clicked with tinnitus as a symptom. Your explanation has given me great comfort.

    TMS is def a thinking problem.
    North Star likes this.
  9. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's funny, but I didn't hear my tinnitus all day until I read your post about it.
    Now I hear the ringing. But I know if I practice "guided imagery," thinking about a pleasant place
    like a sunny beach, I won't hear it. I'll hear lake water lapping against the shore, breezes in the trees,
    and loons calling across the lake.
    North Star likes this.
  10. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    sportychick and North Star like this.
  11. Dfw

    Dfw Peer Supporter

    Thanks Derek for addressing this in a post, I needed it today. I've been going through a real rough patch the last couple weeks.

    Been dealing (knowingly) with TMS for 2.5 years, thought I was doing great until a month ago. Then bam, T showed up out of the blue. Still trying to work through this and having a rough week or so, but the comments here have helped me for the day.

    Still wrestling with the structure issue on this one, kinda have it down with all the other stuff, pelvic, upper & lower back, arm, foot, eye, you name it, I've had it. But......as we discuss, I "know" this one is different, so I look forward to more positivity on this particular subject.
    I'm feeing a bit better just reading some of the good comments.

  12. Ferndale37

    Ferndale37 Peer Supporter

    I made friends with and got over my tinnitus using this site: http://tinnitus.org (Tinnitus.org | homepage)
    Long before I realised it was a tms symptom.. it's a fantastic site that uses many of the same principles that we use to combat tms.. Maybe this could be added to the wiki as a resource if people think it would be useful
    Shakermaker, sportychick and Dfw like this.
  13. Dfw

    Dfw Peer Supporter

    Thanks for your reply. It's been a very challenging change of events, as I'm been good, most of the times with TMS symptoms.

    This has been a kicker in the rear. I had forgotten the intensity TMS can have on our bodies.

    I will look at the site. Thanks for the info.
    Ferndale37 likes this.
  14. sportychick

    sportychick New Member

    Tinnitus is one of my symptoms, too. I have been diagnosed with TMS, but when I saw Dr. Sarno, I never mentioned the ringing in my ears because as Walt says, it was the least of my symptoms. I have had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. If I am busy doing something, I don't hear it. I only hear it if it is very quiet and then the ringing in my ears gets very loud. I never realized it was part of TMS. I wonder if I will be able to get rid of it, too. Can I work on all of my symptoms at one time, or is it better to divide and conquer?
  15. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    No and No.

    The goal of this work is to completely change the way you think about your body and your health, by addressing the hidden emotions that cause your brain to want to distract you with physiological symptoms.

    In other words, the specific symptoms are completely irrelevant. You do not work on symptoms. You work on your emotions, you start listening to the negative chatter concocted by your primitive fearful brain, and you work on countering that.

    One of the things I recommend is to stop talking about specifics. Get in the habit of referring to "my symptoms" as generically as possible. One can say "back pain" instead of going into detail about discs or bulges or MRI results. "GI symptoms" instead of being specific about IBS or heartburn or whatever. Tinnitus is something I would include under the general heading of "neuro symptoms" (had plenty of those myself).

    When you focus on specifics, your negative fearful brain wins. When you convince your brain that the symptom is not important, you are on your way to taking control.
  16. sportychick

    sportychick New Member

    Thanks for the guidance. No wonder I have not been healing; focusing too much on the symptoms. Time to change perspective!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  17. richard13

    richard13 Peer Supporter

    Hey Ferndale37...could you please share some more of your experience with tinnitus? Did you have it for an extended period of time? Was it a "constant" (in not an awareness sense, but that when you brought your attention to it in a completely quiet place, it would always be there)? When you say "got over" does that mean you haven't had any recurrences? That it didn't just lessen, but now when in a place with no auditory distractions, there is complete silence? I'm curious... as it seems that there are many accounts of folks "making friends" or habituating to it so that it no longer causes them distress/fear/anxiety/frustration, but when it has been constant for many years, it seems fewer have the tinnitus symptoms completely go away the way that their chronic pain symptoms have completely disappeared via TMS treatment (despite the attention placed on the emotional/psychological source of the symptoms). This has been my own experience: chronic pain left numerous sites in a matter of weeks (later upon recurrence, days), but have been working for months with the tinnitus symptom using the same method that worked well for chronic pain, so am looking for any help...thx.
  18. Ferndale37

    Ferndale37 Peer Supporter

    I still hear the tinnitus in quiet places, But it is much less and doesn't cause me any problem or distress. It ramps up when I'm stressed but even this now doesn't bother me now the fear of the tinnitus has gone.

    The website link I attached in my previous post explains in much more detail, but I think the reason that people's tinnitus just doesn't vanish, is that it's universal. We all have it in the background, and people who have perceived it as a problem in the past continue to hear it (even after habituation) because they have been aware of it and continue to be so even (on occasion) if they don't fear it. It's like that auditory pathway is open and more easily picked up.

    Nearly all who attend loud concerts will hear tinnitus afterwards
    This isn't because they get a temporary ringing, it's because the loud noise dulls their hearing (temporarily) and makes them hear more of the normal internal background noise (tinnitus) that's universal in everyone. They hear tinnitus more over the external sounds when hearing is dulled.

    Tinnitis stays when we start to fear it, tune into it etc. That's when it can get louder due to our worry and focus.

    Another example is when people are highly anxious, there hearing becomes acute and searches for threats more and will pick up to tinnitus more, which is why it tends to get quiter when we relax and Dont focus on it.

    So much like pain it's a warning that something is wrong in our lives and can also serve as a big distraction from the real issue.

    I stressed over tinnitus for 2 yeats before slowly habituation, mainly through knowledge therapy and trust that I could go to bars, clubs and enjoy life without my ears being damaged.

    The website link explains and gives evidence to all this, it's a great read.

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