Meditation is the answer to tinnitus.
It’s a bold claim, I know. But stay with me for a moment, because if you suffer from tinnitus, meditation can change your life.
It changed mine, and I’ve seen it change the lives of countless other tinnitus patients. I’ve watched people tortured by debilitating tinnitus transform back into their old, productive, happy selves.
I’ve to come believe that meditation is so much more than a coping tool for tinnitus sufferers – it’s a powerful long-term solution for lasting relief.
It may not be easy, at least not at first, but the meditation approach to tinnitus is immediately accessible to every single one of us.
So why not at least give it a try?
By the end of this article, I hope to convince you that meditation can help you too, whether you have meditated before or not, and regardless of what your tinnitus sounds like.
What is meditation?
Let’s start with a definition – meditation is the practice of focusing your attention onto a single point of awareness, like the sensation of breathing or a mantra.
The goal is not to keep a perfectly clear, focused mind. That’s impossible. Everyone’s mind wanders during meditation, especially new meditators. The goal of meditation is to notice your mind wandering, bring your focus back, and start again.
The immediate result of this exercise is a state of deep relaxation and calm, though it can take time and practice for a new meditator to experience this benefit.
Meditation is simple in theory, but it’s not easy in practice, especially when you’re just starting out. It is, however, an extremely enjoyable and pleasurable experience once you get the hang of it.
And meditation can have a transformative effect on your tinnitus when approached the right way.
By now you’re probably thinking, “How can meditation possibly do anything for someone who’s tortured by the ringing in their ears?”
The answer begins with a mental process called habituation.
How can meditation help with ringing in the ears?
The human brain is fully capable of tuning out meaningless background noise and other sensory stimuli from our conscious awareness. We do this all the time, automatically.
It’s how we’re able to have a conversation in noisy places and why we aren’t constantly aware of the touch of our clothing against our skin.
It’s also why our tinnitus sometimes stops bothering us for a short while when we are fully immersed (or distracted) with some activity.
The problem is, we use sound to monitor our environment for threats, and when tinnitus is bothersome, the brain is interpreting it as something dangerous. We are evolutionarily hardwired to focus on sounds that imply danger and react in a very specific way.
We have a stress response, and it never ends because our tinnitus doesn’t just go away. Unfortunately, overtime, the continuous fear, stress, anxiety, frustration, and emotional pain become a conditioned response to the sound.
In other words, the problem is the way we react to the sound, emotionally, psychologically, and physically. And it’s a vicious cycle – one that can completely destroy our quality of life.
But we can change the way we interpret and react to the sound. It’s the one thing we can actually control, and the only thing preventing us from habituating and tuning it out like we do with all other meaningless noise.
We can break the cycle, and as you’ve probably guessed, meditation is the key.
Meditating with tinnitus is HARD!
Now you might be thinking, “Meditation is difficult enough on its own. How can anyone be expected to focus on their breathing, or anything else for that matter, with the sound of tinnitus blaring in their ears?”
And you’re right. Meditation is extremely difficult with bothersome tinnitus. I was an experienced meditator when my tinnitus first became a problem and it was so difficult that I almost stopped entirely.
It was nearly impossible to focus on my breathing with my high-pitched tinnitus sirens blasting 24/7.
But one night, struggling to meditate, I was struck with an idea. What would happen, I wondered, if I stopped fighting to ignore the sound, and focused on it during meditation instead?
I didn’t know what to expect, but I tried it, and it changed everything.
The first thing I noticed was that when my mind wandered, it wandered away from the sound. For those brief moments of distraction, I didn’t notice my tinnitus at all. And when I was done, my tinnitus seemed quieter because it was bothering me a little bit less.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but my brain was starting to associate the calm and relaxation of meditation with the sound of my tinnitus, replacing the old response of stress, anxiety, and frustration.
All I knew was that it was working, and with a few weeks of daily practice, my tinnitus stopped bothering me entirely.
Challenges to this approach:
When I first stumbled on to tinnitus focused meditation, I was an experienced meditator.
So once I stopped fighting to ignore the sound, I was able to go much deeper into the meditation. If you’re experienced with meditation, I encourage you to try this right away. You’ll likely see results very quickly from this technique.
But what about everyone else – all the people who have terrible tinnitus and no experience with meditation?
I wanted to help them, too. Unfortunately, if you have severe tinnitus and no meditation experience, you probably will not be able to get into the relaxation state necessary for this to work.
If you practiced tinnitus meditation every day, for a very long time, you would eventually be successful. But that isn’t a practical solution.
So I set out to find a way to make this approach accessible to everyone, right from the very start, regardless of what their tinnitus sounds like or whether they have any experience with meditation.
And I succeeded. I found a better way.
Tinnitus Meditation 2.0 – Making it easy for everyone:
I quickly realized I wouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
A wide range of effective tools, techniques, and strategies were already being used to treat tinnitus and help people cope.
Making tinnitus meditation accessible was simply a matter of addressing each challenge with tools and techniques already in existence.
For example, in Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), there is the concept of partially masking the tinnitus with background noise. By masking part of the sound, you lower the perceived volume, and it becomes less bothersome.
It also makes it easier to focus on the sound during meditation, which is a hurdle for many.
Relaxation on Demand:
The next challenge was finding a way to help a new meditator experience the state of relaxation necessary for habituation to occur.
Fortunately, I was experienced with a technology that could bridge the gap – Brainwave Entrainment (BWE) – a form of modulated audio that can temporarily alter a person’s mental state in very targeted ways.
The basic premise is simple: how you feel changes your brainwave patterns in very specific ways. But the opposite is also true – you can change your mental state by first changing your brainwave patterns with an external stimulus, like sound, or pulses of light. (For more on the science of BWE click here.)
With brainwave entrainment, it’s possible to induce a deep state of relaxation automatically. I’d experienced it myself, and witnessed it with countless others.
(It was even used to treat tinnitus in the past, at least according to one small published study.)
So, I took these two techniques, combined them with the principals of tinnitus meditation, and the Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project was born: a 49-track album of brainwave entrainment audio designed to make tinnitus meditation accessible to the masses.
It features guided brainwave entrainment meditations, masking audio, and tracks for relaxation, focus, sleep, and so much more!
It’s been several years since the night I first tried tinnitus meditation on a whim. And so much has changed.
Because it’s not just me anymore. Thousands of people all over the world are putting these techniques to use, habituating to the sound of their tinnitus and finding the lasting relief they deserve.
I hear from them every day – people who read my book, or an article on my blog, and begin to experience the same relief. I work with many of them one-on-one as a tinnitus coach, too. I’ve seen the changes with my own eyes.
And this is only the beginning. I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible with this approach to tinnitus habituation.
There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but I’m okay with that for now. Because there is a solution for today. With tinnitus meditation, we can quickly habituate and get to a place where it stops bothering us.
Additional Links and Resources:
Rewiring Tinnitus: How I Finally Found Relief From the Ringing in My Ears by Glenn Schweitzer
The Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project Audio Program
Why Your Tinnitus is Not Too Loud To Habituate and Find Relief
Treating Tinnitus: It’s Not About the Noise
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Glenn Ive just started trying to recover from a tinnitus spiral. I love this idea but I had a question. In your book you say it can be days between thinking of tinnitus now. However, do you still meditate daily. It seems like at some point it would be a potent reminder.
Thanks again for all the resources.
Great question! I do meditate daily, but I practice mindfulness as a daily practice instead of tinnitus focused meditation. But I still do tinnitus focused meditation any time anything happens to me that causes a spike and it prevents it from becoming a problem again.
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I am having a tinnitus that almost inflicts physical pain. No joke. At it’s peak, it’s like 80dB. And it’s of a physical origin. How I know? It started when I started taking certain meds. Also, when I use certain muscles, it completely goes away.
Yet, all I get to hear is “try and relax”, “try and refocus”, “tinnitus can’t heal”, “it’s never going to go away again”.
I have tried meditating (part of my therapy) and am happy with a routine there. It helps so much with a lot of things. But my tinnitus? No chance.
It’s the worst when I wake up. I don’t even get a chance of waking up and becoming stressed, it is there even BEFORE I get conscious.
And what bothers me most is the advice coming from everyone to meditate, relax, seek silence, breath…
There are people out there who don’t benefit from those behaviours in regard of tinnitus. And everyone just seems to be like “🤷♂️”