Tinnitus & Hyperacusis Therapy Masterclass

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Specialist course for management of tinnitus and hyperacusis in children and adults


Techniques of Cognitive Therapy 

  Audiologist-delivered CBT is focused on managing hyperacusis/tinnitus-related distress and patients with symptoms of co-morbid psychological disorders should be referred to mental health professionals for assessment and appropriate management of their psychological symptoms. These should be identified at the assessment stage prior to initiating the treatment. Patients should undergo psychiatric/psychological assessment/treatment at the same time or prior to their tinnitus and hyperacusis rehabilitation, when needed.

The audiologist-delivered CBT for tinnitus and/or hyperacusis involved individual face-to-face sessions, each lasting about one hour. Table below shows a summary of the typical techniques used in each session. For details see Dr. Aazh’s paper on audiologist-delivered CBT for tinnitus and/or hyperacusis published in International Journal of Audiology.

Summary of the interventions provided in each audiologist-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session for management of tinnitus and/or hyperacusis.

Session 1

Exploration of tinnitus/hyperacusis-related distress using in-depth interview

Evaluation of the patient’s cognitive, behavioral and emotional reactions to tinnitus/sound and the impact these have on their life.

Development of a cognitive behavioral formulation for tinnitus/hyperacusis distress 

Enhancement of the patient’s motivation for the therapy

Offer of full CBT or discharge  


Session 2

Design of a behavioral experiment (BE) to target and challenge troublesome thoughts

Patient to complete the BE as a between-session assignment 


Session 3

Reviewing and reflecting on the outcomes of the BE

Creation of counter-statements to negative thoughts

Issuing the diary of thoughts and feelings (DTF) to be filled in as a between-session assignment


Session 4

Reviewing of the DTF and giving help to the patient to appraise and modify the thoughts responsible for producing tinnitus/hyperacusis-related distress

Issuing another DTF to be filled in as a between-session assignment  


Session 5

Reviewing of the DTF

Developing “acceptance” of tinnitus/hyperacusis 

Further education about CBT


Session 6

Reviewing and reflecting on progress



Case formulation

In-depth interview are used in order to explore the impact of tinnitus and/or hyperacusis on the patient’s life (Green & Thorogood 2009). If the tinnitus and/or hyperacusis does adversely affect the patient’s activities or mood then Socratic questioning should be used in order to help the patient to explore their thoughts, emotional reactions, physical sensations, and safety-seeking behaviors (SSBs). The information gathered here will be used for formulation of the processes and stages involved in producing their tinnitus and/or hyperacusis-related distress (Muran 1991). The formulation will be shared with patients and the principles of CBT will be discussed. Examples of formulation for tinnitus and hyperacusis are shown in Figures 1 and 2.  The case formulations for tinnitus and hyperacusis which are proposed here begin with the initial emotional response and physical sensations related to the experience of tinnitus or hyperacusis. These initial symptoms are then followed by the individuals’ negative thoughts leading to further negative emotions, physical sensations, and evaluative thoughts which feed back into the patient’s initial reaction leading to exacerbation of their symptoms, a vicious cycle.  



Behavioral experiment

Behavioral experiment (Bennett-Levy et al. 2004) should be used in order to help the patient to explore their negative predictions about what might happen to them when exposed to sounds that they found unpleasant (in the case of hyperacusis) or when they become aware of their tinnitus, and the precautions that they typically take to prevent these from happening (Bennett-Levy et al. 2004; McManus et al. 2012). The behavioral experiment provides an opportunity for the patient to drop these precautions or safety seeking behaviors (SSBs) so that they could face their fear, which is intended to help them to find out whether their negative predictions and fear are justified. Most patients state that at least some of their predictions do not come true.

For example a 6 years old girl with hyperacusis found the classroom environment difficult due to noise levels and at times had to cover her ears. This created unnecessary stress which hampered her progress in school and impacted her self-confidence. Her mum reported that when they went to a theme park she covered her ears for almost the whole time. During the therapy she learned how to explore her thoughts and modify them. After a behavioural experiment she wrote the text below which showed her progress in resolving her intolerance to sound.        


Then patients are encouraged to create counter-statements for their negative thoughts based on the evidence they gathered during the experiment (Henry & Wilson 1995). Patients are encouraged to use these counterstatements in real-life scenarios as soon as the troublesome tinnitus and/or sound-related thoughts goes through their mind.


Diary of Thoughts and Feelings (DTF)

DTF is used to provide a structured method for the patient to take notes about their tinnitus and/or sound-related problems, and their associated thoughts and emotions (Bennett-Levy 2003; McManus et al. 2012). DTF is completed by patients between sessions. During the session, audiologist use Socratic questioning style (Braun et al. 2015) to encourage the patient to think of the advantages and disadvantages of the thoughts that they recorded in the DTF, and to replace them by counter-statements if the patient decide that their thoughts were unrealistic or unhelpful. The overall approach is collaborative with a strong emphasis on the clinician and patient exploring the problem together. Throughout, the principle of guided discovery (Todd & Freshwater 1999) should be employed, in that the patient makes discoveries with the help of careful questioning from the audiologist rather than the audiologist giving information and advice.





Bennett-Levy, J. (2003). Mechanisms of change in cognitive therapy: the case of automatic thought records and behavioural experiments Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 31, 261-277.

Bennett-Levy, J., Butler, G., Fennell, M., et al. (2004). Oxford guide to behavioural experiments in cognitive therapy. Oxford University Press. 

Braun, J. D., Strunk, D. R., Sasso, K. E., et al. (2015). Therapist use of Socratic questioning predicts session-to-session symptom change in cognitive therapy for depression. Behav Res Ther, 70, 32-7.

Green, J., & Thorogood, N. (2009). In-depth Interviews. In Qualitative Methods for Health Research (pp. 93-122). London: Sage.

Henry, J., & Wilson, P. (1995). The psychological management of tinnitus: comparison of a combined cognitive educational program, education alone and a waiting-list control. The international tinnitus journal, 2, 9-20.

McManus, F., Van Doorn, K., & Viend, J. (2012). Examining the effects of thought records and behavioural experiments in instigating belief change. Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 43, 540-548.

Muran, J. C. (1991). A reformulation of the ABC model in cognitive psychotherapies: implications for assessment and treatment. Clin Psychol Rev, 11, 399-418.

Todd, G., & Freshwater, D. (1999). Reflective practice and guided discovery: clinical supervision. Br J Nurs, 8, 1383-9.