Today, I am excited to share a powerful new tinnitus coping and habituation technique that I have been developing for a long time now.
It’s called the TABS technique, which is short for Tinnitus Awareness Body Scan.
It’s a coping exercise that combines a breathing technique with brief moments of focused tinnitus awareness, a progressive muscle relaxation routine, and an awareness switching exercise.
The TABS technique is a powerful tinnitus coping and relaxation technique. And after extensive testing, I am happy to announce that it’s also a viable alternative to my tinnitus-focused meditations for facilitating habituation.
For many years, I had been trying to develop new habituation strategies and techniques that do not require a person to meditate, but could achieve the same underlying results as my tinnitus-focused meditation techniques.
With tinnitus-focused meditation, the concept is fairly simple:
When you practice meditation often and become good at it, you start to experience states of calm and relaxation when you meditate. Traditionally people are instructed to focus on their breath, or a mantra, or part of the body when they meditate, though there is ultimately nothing special about the breath or a mantra.
By choosing to focus on the sound of your tinnitus during meditation instead of the breath or a mantra, but still achieving the meditative state of relaxation as a result of doing so, your brain and nervous system will start to associate the resulting state of relaxation with the sound of your tinnitus.
And this new positive association slowly starts to overpower the vicious cycle of fight or flight that prevents habituation from occurring naturally.
I created the TABS technique was created achieve the exact same result. It enables you to experience a deep state of relaxation while incorporating moments of tinnitus focus and awareness as part of the process, but without requiring you meditate at all!
Results so far:
I’ve been teaching the TABS technique to my 1-on-1 tinnitus coaching clients for the last 18 months or so now and the results have been incredible.
If you are already having success with my tinnitus-focused meditation techniques, this new technique is nice addition to the program and can help you to make additional progress. It works really well as a relaxation and coping technique,
But if you have been scared to try my tinnitus-focused meditation techniques, or have been unsuccessful with them in the past, this is an entirely new technique and strategy that you can practice daily instead to facilitate habituation.
In the last year, I have had coaching clients who were struggling with my tinnitus-focused meditation techniques, but found the TABS technique to be highly effective and much more relaxing. By practicing TABS daily instead of tinnitus-focused meditation, I am happy to report that these clients were able to make progress with habituation at the same pace as my meditation clients.
How to practice the Tinnitus Awareness Body Scan technique:
I am going to start by teaching you the basic technique, and then at the end, I will teach you a variety of ways that you can modify the technique to better suit your specific needs.
You can do this with or without background noise or the brainwave entrainment tracks on the Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project Album, though I highly recommend using some kind of background noise.
(For the best results, I recommend using the relaxation inducing brainwave entrainment tracks found on the Tinnitus Relier Project album – any of the deep or light meditation tracks, or the deep or light relaxation tracks will work best. You can practice with a sample brainwave entrainment track at the bottom of this page.)
First, lay down and get completely comfortable. I recommend laying down in bed, on a comfy recliner, or on the couch. The more comfortable you are, the better.
Next, you’re going to slow your breathing down to 4 seconds in, 8 seconds out, in through your nose, out through your mouth.
For the first couple of breaths, I just want you to count the seconds in your head. This is simply to get a rhythm going so you don’t have to keep counting, but you will continue breathing at this speed for the remainder of the exercise.
After counting for several breaths, you are ready to begin the technique.
The Basic TABS Protocol:
First, as you inhale for 4-seconds, I want you calmly focus on the sound your tinnitus, just like you would during tinnitus-focused meditation.
(A helpful visualization here is to imagine that you are breathing in the sound of your tinnitus as you inhale.)
Then with each 8-second exhale, you are going to hard shift your focus on to a specific part of your body starting with your feet.
For the entirety of the 8-second exhale, focus all your concentration on relaxing the muscles in your feet as completely and deeply as you can. (If you find it difficult to focus on your feet, start by gently tensing the muscles in your feet briefly before releasing the tension. If tensing isn’t enough, you can rapidly rub the skin of your feet with your hands to give them a tingly sensation that you can focus on)
As you inhale for 4-seconds, shift back and focus again on the sound of your tinnitus.
Then as you exhale, shift your focus back into your body, now focusing on your lower legs (ankles to knees), relaxing your lower leg muscles as much as you possibly can.
You will repeat this pattern until you have worked your way through your entire body following this sequence of body parts:
Breath 1: Feet
Breath 2: Lower legs (ankles to knees)
Breath 3: Upper Legs (knees to glutes)
Breath 4: Stomach/Lower back (Core muscles)
Breath 5: Chest/Upper back
Breath 6: Shoulders/Arms/Hands
Breath 7: Neck/Throat
Breath 8: Head/Face/Jaw
One you finish going through the body, simply go back to your feet and begin again.
If you get distracted at any point, you can repeat the most recent body part you remember focusing on, or you can just start over again at your feet and take another lap.
You can practice this for as long or as short you’d like, though I highly recommend practicing for longer sessions, ideally 5-20 minutes at a time. The longer you go, the more relaxed you will become.
For tinnitus habituation purposes, I recommend practicing for 15 minutes twice per day.
Important notes to read before you attempt TABS:
- You can choose to move through the body in larger or smaller increments. To speed it up, you can focus on larger segments of your body each time you exhale. To slow it down, you can focus on smaller body segments with each breath (i.e. starting with one foot, then one part of one leg at a time), breaking the body up into as many breaths as you’d like.
- There is a learning curve to this technique. When you first try it, it will require a lot of concentration, but that’s a good thing because the harder you have to concentrate, the less chance of experiencing anxiety thoughts. After practicing a few times, it will require much less concentration and it becomes much easier to flow back and forth with your breath as you practice. Once you can flow effortlessly with the breath, you will start to get into MUCH deeper states of relaxation.
- Keep in mind that it is not possible to focus on a body part so intensely that you stop hearing your tinnitus, and likewise, it’s impossible to focus on your tinnitus so intensely that you stop feeling your body. It’s sort of like aiming a flash light at one of two framed pictures, hung side by side on a wall. One picture will be more illuminated, but the other picture will be lit up as well to a lesser degree. You will be able to hear your tinnitus when focused on your body, and that’s a good thing because it will start to train your nervous system to be calm when hearing your tinnitus while focusing on other things.
Optional Modifications to make TABS work better for you:
- You can choose to breathe in and out of your nose, rather than in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- If you struggle with 4-8 breathing, you might find it easier to do 5-5 breathing instead. Other breathing patterns you find helpful can be substituted as well:
- You can also try 4-7-8 breathing in the following way: breath focus on the 4-second inhale, tinnitus focus on the 7-second breath hold, body focus on the 8-second exhale
- You can incorporate ujjayi nasal breathing (video instructions) which makes it more effective for falling asleep.
- If you prefer to start with your head and work your way down your body rather than up from your feet, that works too! In fact, I recommend experimenting to see which is more relaxing for you.
Practice the Technique:
To make it as easy as possible for you to practice this new technique, I have included several free resources below:
Relaxation Inducing Audio (Sample Tracks from the Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project Album): Click play on one of the two sample tracks below experience the incredible anxiety relieving power of Brainwave Entrainment. Listen with headphones or a decent set of speakers and with your eyes closed. As you listen take slow, deep, steady breaths and watch how quickly the Isochronic tones are able to relax you. But make sure to read the disclaimer before you listen as this sample is extremely sedating.
Nature Sound Masking Tracks: Click play on one of the nature soundscape tracks below if you would like to practice the TABS technique with background noise for masking. All of these nature soundscape tracks were created by me and are featured on the Tinnitus Relief Project Album.
(These tracks are sound masking tracks do not feature brainwave entrainment.)
Guided Breath Pacing Bubble: One of the most effective ways to practice breathing techniques is to use a visual breath pacer. The breathing bubble below is set by default to breathing pace of 4 seconds in and 6 seconds out, but can be changed to any pacing you like! Simply click menu button in the top right of the breathing bubble below (it looks like three stacked small horizontal lines), and change the “Breathe Out” interval to 8 seconds if you want to do the basic technique, or any other interval you’d like to try!)