At the core of tinnitus is The Loop. The Loop is my own term for the positive feedback loop created by the following two mechanisms:
1.The more attention you give to your tinnitus, the louder it gets.
2.The louder your tinnitus is, the more it attracts your attention, which in turn makes it even louder, and so on.
This is a vicious circle that can be extremely hard to break out of. In the first few days after my tinnitus appeared, I gave it so much of my attention that eventually I could hear it even while watching TV.
The loop starts when you focus your attention on the noise. Once you let yourself do that, the noise will get louder, making it much harder to get your mind off it. So Rule Number One is: don’t start The Loop. Whenever you find your attention wandering towards the noise, use your will to immediately focus on something else. Get busy. Slap yourself on the face. If you’re trying to fall asleep, try counting. Remember how miserable you felt the last time you let yourself focus on the noise. Do whatever it takes to take your mind off the tinnitus. If all else fails, mask it with music or some noise. But whatever you do, don’t start The Loop.
Learning to take your attention away from tinnitus takes training. One technique that helps with this is having a loud ticking clock in your room. The moment your attention wanders towards the tinnitus, focus on the tick-tockinstead. Counting tick-tocks is also a good way to fall asleep.
If you haven’t heard your tinnitus for some time, don’t listen for it. Don’t ask yourself: “Do I hear the noise now?” or “Has it really gone away or is it just temporarily masked by ambient noise?”. In the first weeks after I got tinnitus, whenever it stopped being noticeable, I would go to a quiet room and put on my isolating headphones to see if it really went away. I did this many times a day and all it did was make me notice my tinnitus again. In the end, I had to set a rule: I am allowed one “tinnitus test” per day, when I get up in the morning. For the rest of the day, no checking.
Remember: If you listen for tinnitus, you are just training your brain to hear it better. Don’t do it. Focus on other things in your surroundings and your life.