Dear Dr. K; 

Dear Dr. K; 

I recently heard about a mental technique to help me cope with tinnitus.  But for the life of me I can’t remember what it was, can you help? 

I think so.  I suspect you heard about a form of cognitive behavioral therapy called somatic tracking exercise.    There are good academic studies instantiating its benefit.  It has proven effective not only for tinnitus but for other unpleasant or painful sensory inputs. 

Basically, you pretend you are a non-emotional observer of yourself.   With respect to tinnitus, you describe to yourself the volume, frequency, pitch, and the variance in laterality (right versus left).  You do this with no emotion attached and you tell your brain that this is of no threat.  You do this briefly several times a day and over time you will find the sound decrease on its own. 

This technique can also be used for anxiety, nausea, dizziness and pain.  Remember that unpleasant sensory awareness is the brain’s alarm system to try and protect us.  By being an unemotional remote observer of your own unpleasant sensory input, you can teach the brain that this is nothing to fear.  The

goal of the exercise is not to get rid of the pain/sensation.  In fact, the more you try to accomplish this the worse the symptom becomes.  But the goal is to persuade your brain that its’ safe and therefore no need to continue “sounding the alarm”.  Another way to approach it is to tell yourself that these are just unbridled neurons firing off and you’re going to put a bridle on them.  When you are doing this mental exercise, it is also helpful to use avoidance strategies that lessen or minimalize the pain/sensory sensation. 

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