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Can meditation help soothe tinnitus?

“Do you hear that?” I often ask my family. “That ringing noise?” The reply is usually, “No.” If I am honest, I already knew the answer. I was just asking to make sure.

I have tinnitus — a condition where you perceive sounds that don’t exist. My tinnitus is a high-pitched ringing, which comes and goes. It is fairly mild compared to what it could be. Some people hear loud buzzing or static constantly, making it hard to function. Mine is most noticeable when there isn’t any background noise to block it out, like in the quiet of my apartment before the kids come home from school.  

I consider myself lucky, but the ringing still bothers me. It can be quite a nuisance to have a high-pitched sound ebbing and flowing in your ear all day long. Or to walk into a quiet room and suddenly hear a noise that does not exist. You wonder if you are going a little bit crazy. Maybe you are. But then you remember, it is just a byproduct of your hearing loss.

My hearing aids help me cope. I chose my Lyric hearing aids in part because I can wear them 24/7, which helps mask the tinnitus, particularly when I am ready to sleep. With other types of hearing aids, my tinnitus would always flare up when I took them out for the night. Maybe it just became more noticeable because I no longer heard other background sounds like the air conditioner or my husband’s breathing.

Almost by accident, I discovered that meditation could help too. Meditation does not silence my tinnitus all the time, but it has made it less prominent and less frequent. I now meditate 20 minutes a day as a makeshift therapy. It has had a huge impact on the quality of my life.

I discovered meditation on a yoga retreat last summer. I have always loved yoga, but meditation was a harder sell. The retreat was at a beautiful Buddhist monastery in Colorado, and as part of the retreat, you had the opportunity to meditate daily with the monks in their tranquil meditation hall. I figured I might as well give it a try.

The meditation practice was simple — sit in the meditation posture and relax. Breathe in and out and try to clear your mind of any stray thoughts.

There were only three rules:

Don’t move, don’t scratch, and don’t invite your thoughts to tea. I also found that these three steps of meditation helped soothe my tinnitus.

  1. Don’t move: This concept was clear — sit still and don’t fidget. This is easier said than done, because as soon as you begin, you feel the desperate need to shift your position or blow your nose or whatever. It takes mental discipline to remain still, but soon it becomes routine.
  1. Don’t scratch: This means don’t immediately react to discomfort. If you have an itch, notice it rather than automatically scratch it right away. Surprisingly, the unpleasant feeling will often subside on its own.
  1. Don’t invite your thoughts to tea: This is the trickiest rule. This means to clear your mind. Each time a thought enters your mind, acknowledge it, but don’t dwell on it or let it lead to another. If I catch myself thinking about something, I try my best to let it go and return to my breathing. Sometimes it helps me stay focused if I count my breaths.

The amazing thing was that during the meditation, the ringing in my ears would cease. Once I was done meditating, it would return. I liked meditating (and the quiet) so much at the retreat, that when I returned home, I decided to keep it up.

After a few months, something strange happened. I walked into the quiet of my bedroom one afternoon and rather than hearing my normal yet unwelcome ringing noise, it was silent. Silent! I began turning my head quickly from side to side as if to locate the source of the quiet. Where was the ringing? There was only stillness.

This happened again the next day. And the next. I can’t be sure that the meditation is the cause, but just in case, I am sure to meditate every day now. I have my fingers and toes firmly crossed that this trend will continue.

Can meditation help soothe tinnitus?

Readers, have you found that meditation helps soothe tinnitus? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments!

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