Tinnitus is not traceable to a single disease or pathology, but merely a symptom, which is distressing to some but not all individuals able to perceive it. The experience of tinnitus does not equate to tinnitus distress. Tinnitus suffering might be understood as a function of tinnitus-related distress in that bothersome tinnitus is an illness rather than a disease. In bothersome (distressing) tinnitus, the perception of the characteristic sound is a very disturbing and bothersome experience because of maladaptive psychological responses. Several cognitive and behavioral theoretical frameworks attempting to explain the nature and cause of tinnitus suffering have been introduced in and will be summarized here. Current treatment approaches are generally based on models that aim to: alleviate the perceptional experience by focusing on the tinnitus perception for habituation or even soothing purposes; decrease awareness of the sound by attentional training and cognitive interventions; decrease the maladaptive responses and the resulting distress by behavioral methods (i. e., exposure). The cognitive behavioral fear-avoidance model may offer an integrative cognitive behavioral approach that can lead to a new set of paradigms for studying the underlying mechanisms explaining chronic tinnitus suffering as well for developing innovative strategies to treat bothersome tinnitus.
- Journal Article