I had a pain toolbox before I had a tinnitus treatment toolbox. I have a type of arthritis that causes chronic fatigue and chronic pain all over. It’s hard to cope with. It’s invisible. People don’t understand what it’s like. It’s distressing, and it flares up at times. Years ago in the 1990’s, my devices (knee brace, back brace, cane, etc.) and prescription medicines weren’t helping enough. So I ended up going to an arthritis self-management course put on by the Arthritis Society of Canada. The focus of the course was not to figure out the cause or to fix the pain. That wasn’t important. Instead the course taught me to think about the pain differently. To stop worrying about what ifs or what might happen. To set goals and not let the pain limit me. To “walk as if I didn’t have it”. This doesn’t mean people don’t see me limping around at times. But I try not to let pain stop me from doing what I want (even though doing what I want like biking or going out often means a lot of planning, pacing and recovery time).
As I went through the course, it made me think about my tinnitus. So much of what I was dealing with for pain was really similar to what I was dealing with for tinnitus. Trouble coping. Invisible. People not understanding. Distressed and dealing with flare-ups. I began to use my pain tools for my tinnitus. They helped. I call it mind enrichment because I’m enriching my mind. Mind enrichment techniques are not about the sound. They’re about how you react to the sound. Sometimes you need to change that to change your distress. If we can’t have quiet, at least we can learn to be more at peace with what we’re dealing with.
There is a wonderful tinnitus expert named Dr. Robert Folmer. In 2001 he wrote an article comparing tinnitus with chronic pain. Of course, this made me his number one fan. (In a good way, not an Annie Wilkes way). Research now shows that certain treatments for chronic pain also work for tinnitus. In some cases, formal counselling can help. In other cases, there are techniques people can use on their own to enrich their mind with better thoughts than constantly focussing on their T or SS. What you focus on – increases. By using mind enrichment, people with T or SS can help reduce over-activity in their emotion system.
Some people can’t use environmental sound enrichment well. This is especially true if they have too much hearing loss to hear sound enrichment effectively. Hearing loss management is very important in these cases. Don’t forget hearing loss management is the number one recommended form of sound enrichment for people with T and hearing loss. Not only well fit hearing aids or hearing devices, but assistive listening devices and communication strategies if needed. But if you have too much hearing loss to comfortably use environmental sound enrichment, then please consider mind enrichment. It is often a missing piece in how to cope better with distress.
Distress stress is draining. It makes us tired and affects how we feel. By reducing distress through effective tools, we can gain back the energy to cope better and take control over how we live our lives.
Jan L. Mayes ©2010