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What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is thought to be maintained by changes in perception, cognition, and behavior. This information handout is a simple introduction to the psychological approach to tinnuitus.

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Tinnitus is thought to be associated with changes in the way in which the brain processes information. Normally a filter operates to 'tune out' unnecessary noises - including physiological noises - allowing for habituation to certain noises. In tinnitus this mechanism seems to fail - leading to awareness of physioloigcal noises. Awareness and particular attributions can lead to emotional reactions, which can exacerbate perception of the noise. What Causes Tinnitus? is a description of this process. This information sheet forms part of a cognitive-behavioral understanding of tinnitus.


This is a Psychology Tools information handout. Suggested uses include: 

  • Client handout – use as a psychoeducation resource. 
  • Discussion point – use to provoke a discussion and explore client beliefs. 
  • Therapist learning tool – improve your familiarity with a psychological construct. 
  • Teaching resource – use as a learning tool during training. 


  • McKenna, L., Handscombe, L., Hoare, D. J., Hall, D. A. (2014). A scientific cognitive-behavioural model of tinnitus: novel conceptualizations of tinnitus distress. Frontiers in Neurology, 5, 1-15.