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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Hearing Loss And Loud Sounds Are A Bad Combination

“Welcome to Old Lahaina Luau. Have you visited with us before?” the hostess asked as she led us to our table. “Yes, a few years ago,” my husband replied. “Well, you will notice a big difference. “We just installed a new sound and light system which should really enhance your experience,” she told us. “Super,” my family said in unison.

Except for me. I started digging around in my purse for extra earplugs. Sound systems are only heading in one direction and that is louder! I figured we were going to need them.

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My Tinnitus And The Power of Suggestion

Since we got our new hearing loss friendly TV, my husband and I have been watching a lot more television. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but watching TV is definitely more fun now that I can better follow the dialogue. We have gotten ourselves particularly addicted to one show on Netflix…

Last night, we were watching an episode where a character was experiencing periodic ringing in his ears as a result of a head injury. A high-pitched sound would play and the character would wince in pain, losing his ability to concentrate or converse. Tinnitus was never mentioned by name, but the signs were unmistakable. The sound played repeatedly through the episode and by the end of the hour, my ears were ringing too.

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When You Are Tackled by Tinnitus In The Testing Booth

The hearing aids come out. I startle from the shock of the ringing. My tinnitus is no longer masked by the real sounds around me. The door to the testing booth shuts with a thud that I feel more than hear. Since I wear my hearing aids 24/7, I rarely experience how quiet everything is without them. In some ways the cessation of sound is a relief, but only until the tinnitus arrives. Silence, yet for me, it is not silent. I sit alone with my ringing, waiting for the hearing test to start.

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What If Hearing Aids Were Noise Canceling?

I love my noise canceling headphones. I wear them to the movies, on planes and at concerts. A flick of the switch and extraneous sound recedes. It is heaven. Sometimes I wonder why this feature is not built into hearing aids. The technology obviously exists. Imagine that same flick of a switch at a restaurant or a noisy cocktail party. The background hum would disappear leaving only the voices loud and clear. Seriously, why does this not exist?

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