How Meditation Can Help With Tinnitus

I am proud to share my hearing loss story and tips on Healthy Hearing

“What is that noise?” I asked my family one quiet Sunday afternoon. They all looked around squinting as if that would help them hear it, but there was no sound. “It must be my tinnitus again,” I sighed. It was starting to be a real nuisance.

Tinnitus, that pesky ringing in your ears, harasses more than 45 million Americans, according to the American Tinnitus Association, with nearly 20 million of them bothered on a regular basis.

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The unique experience of tinnitus

Tinnitus can impact anyone, but a 2010 article in The Journal of Medicine indicates it is most common in males, older adults, and former smokers. None of these categories apply to me, but I have struggled with tinnitus for over 20 years. There is currently no cure.

The word tinnitus is derived from the Latin word tinnire, which means “to ring,” but it can take on other sounds as well. Some describe it as a buzzing or a humming. Others as a sizzling or a hissing. For me, it is most often an electrical hum — like the sound of a fluorescent light coming on — followed by a steady high-pitched tone. This can last for several minutes.

Meditation in coping with tinnitus

The only way I have found sustained relief from tinnitus is through daily meditation, which I discovered almost by accident. I regularly practice yoga, but had never tried meditation in any meaningful way, until I attended a yoga retreat a couple years ago. Intermixed with the yoga classes were afternoon tutorials on meditation.

There were only three rules.

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Family Kayaking, aka Screaming “What” Into The Wind

The ocean waves crashed noisily around me. The wind was buzzing in my ears and whistling in my hearing aids. The sun was shining and the birds were flying overhead, occasionally squawking before plunging into the sea to catch a fish. I was seated in the back of a two person kayak — and I couldn’t hear a thing. My son was in front of me, my husband and daughter in a second kayak. We spent most of the trip yelling “What?” into the wind. It was a perfect storm of frustration and hearing loss.

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The Joys of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I am proud to share my hearing loss story and tips on Hearing Tracker

I love to travel, attend concerts, and live sporting events, but as my hearing loss has worsened, I have become more sensitive to loud sounds. More frequently, the aftermath of a plane flight or visit to a stadium was a long bout of tinnitus and sometimes, even vertigo. It just wasn’t worth it, until I discovered noise-cancelling headphones. I wear them almost everywhere now — on airplanes, at the movies and of course at any concert or loud stadium. Not only do they protect my hearing in the moment, they prevent days of pain and annoyance afterwards.

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I first started using noise-cancelling headphones on plane rides. The white noise of an airplane engine can be easy to ignore, but one day I decided to measure it on my iPhone decibel reader. I was amazed to see how loud it actually is! Noise levels ranged from 80 decibels up to 90 decibels on the plane, an unsafe listening level. The rule of thumb is that prolonged exposure to any noise at or above 85 decibels can cause gradual hearing loss, and this hearing loss is permanent.

After that flight, I purchased a high quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones and now wear them every time I travel on an airplane. I also don them on long bus and train rides to block out the rhythmic sounds of the world passing by. Rhythmic sounds, even if they are not that loud, can sometimes trigger my tinnitus.

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I Love My New Captioned Phone

Like most people with hearing loss, I regularly have trouble hearing on the phone. I make religious use of my amplified headset and the volume control on my speakerphone, but sometimes, it is not enough. It can be embarrassing to keep asking someone to repeat themselves, and dangerous if important information is being conveyed. I remember one phone call with an editor where I kept repeating what I thought I had heard to keep the conversation moving forward. It was very stressful and difficult for both of us.

After that call, I decided to try a captioned phone to see what benefits it would bring. It has only been a few weeks, but I am very pleased with it.

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How My Children Taught Me To Accept My Hearing Loss

I never expected my children to be my greatest teachers, but seeing myself reflected in their eyes showed me the path I needed to take to overcome my struggles with hearing loss.

When I became a parent I was still in denial about my hearing loss, even though it had started almost 10 years prior. My father also had hearing loss, but never discussed it. I remember him actively hiding it from friends and even family when I was a child. We all knew — it is a very hard thing to hide — but it was never discussed. An unmentionable.

My family was not supportive of him. My mother would whisper comments to my sister and me behind his back. When we asked her about it she would reply, “Don’t worry, he can’t hear us.” This behavior taught me that hearing loss was something shameful and that my father should not expect any help from the family to help him cope. I look back on our behavior with regret.

So when I began having trouble hearing as an adult, I was horrified, and ashamed. I hid it the best I could, following in my father’s footsteps. I rarely disclosed it, and refused to wear my hearing aids any more than absolutely necessary.

But then I had children.

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