When I talk about tinnitus and habituation and finding relief, people often say to me, “No. My tinnitus is too loud to habituate. I could never ignore it when it’s this loud.”
And I get it. I completely understand, because I’ve been there myself.
But that response is based a set of assumptions that don’t quite grasp the bigger picture.
So I made this video to make a case for why I believe that it’s possible for everyone to habituate, no matter how loud their tinnitus is, or what it sounds like.
A Different Approach:
So let’s start with the elephant in the room. Obviously, if there was some way to just get rid of the noise, that would solve the problem.
But right now, there’s no cure for tinnitus or even a way to reliably reduce to the volume. So, we have to approach it from a different angle.
If we take the sound out of the equation, the next problem that we run into is the way we react to the sound emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically.
When a sound is bothering us, we can’t tune it out or ignore it because it’s impossible to tune out a sound that our brain interprets as something bothersome, dangerous, or threatening.
We’re evolutionarily hardwired to hear sounds that imply danger. You would never want to not hear the sound of something dangerous.
The problem is that our brains can’t tell the difference between an imagined threat like tinnitus and real danger, so our reaction is the same.
We have a stress response, and it never ends because our tinnitus doesn’t just go away.
But we can change the way we react to the sound. It’s the only thing we actually have the power to change, and the very thing preventing us from finding relief.
You see, the human brain is entirely capable of filtering out meaningless background noise and other sensory stimuli from our conscious awareness with this mental process called habituation.
And this happens automatically, all the time. It’s how we’re able to carry on conversations in noisy places. And why we aren’t constantly aware of the touch of our clothing against our skin.
Until there’s a cure for tinnitus, that filtering mechanism in our brains, is the best hope we have to find relief.
A Better Frame of Reference:
If you’re suffering right now, I know it’s hard to wrap your mind around this. When your tinnitus is very loud, it’s hard to imagine how you could ever tune it out or ignore it.
But whether you realize it or not, you probably already have a frame of reference to understand exactly how this can occur, even at your current tinnitus volume levels.
Because everyone with tinnitus has had the experience of being so immersed or distracted by an activity that it stops bothering them for a short while.
It doesn’t always last long, but it’s a taste of what it feels like to habituate.
And if your tinnitus was too loud to habituate, you wouldn’t have been able to filter it out at all, even for a second.
Let me put it another way.
If you’ve ever been so preoccupied by an activity that you didn’t notice your tinnitus for a short while, then your tinnitus is not too loud for habituation to occur.
Your brain’s filtering mechanisms are working fine.
You just need to change the way your brain reacts to the sound, so that it can filter it out more of the time.
Now for many people, this process happens naturally over time. But you don’t have to just wait for it to get better.
You can train your brain to stop interpreting the sound as something threatening, and when you do, those filtering mechanisms can get to work and tune it out like they should have been doing all along. Like they do in every other person who isn’t bothered by their tinnitus.
I’m not saying that this is an easy process, but I’m telling you that it’s possible, no matter what your tinnitus sounds like.
So, if you’re struggling, please don’t give up.
Because there is hope. Real hope, right now, for you to find relief too.
To Learn More:
How I Found Relief from Tinnitus (VIDEO)
Treating Tinnitus: It’s Not About the Noise
Rewiring Tinnitus: How I Finally Found Relief From the Ringing in My Ears
How did you learn to meditate? Yoga classes? How can anyone do this on their own when the T is driving you mad?
Hi Laura, good question. I learned on my own, primarily from reading books, and had meditated regularly for a long time before my tinnitus became problematic. So it was easier for me to get started. For someone who doesn’t have previous experience with meditation, or has particularly bothersome Tinnitus, I usually recommend one of several things. For example, you can make it a lot easier by partially masking your tinnitus with background noise of some kind as you mediate. This is just one example.
But the best way to get started with tinnitus meditation is with the audio program I created (https://rewiringtinnitus.com/relief).
It features guided tinnitus meditations with brainwave entrainment. The background noise partially masks the sound, my voice guides you through the exercises, and the brainwave entrainment puts you into a relaxing meditative state automatically. It makes it so much easier to learn.
I completely understand your question. I suffer from intrusive tinnitus that is difficult to live with. However, I meditate every day for 20 minutes. I practise TM. This is a technique I learnt years before I had tinnitus from a noise exposure. It takes me to a very still place where though I can hear the tinnitus it does not disturb me or create fight or flight responses. Transcendental meditation needs to be learnt from a trained teacher on a short course. Sometimes doing something completely different takes one out of the habit energy of dreading the tinnitus. I know that dread feeling but the meditation helps to keep it under control more. I am also learning tai chi. Again my brain is focussing on a new skill which take it away from tinnitus. I know it is not easy. I struggle with it but am determined to see it a different way. I also read a lot of spiritual books which keep my focussed on a deeper meaning to life.
I am a student of A Course in Miracles. I do believe in miracles and that there is help overcoming suffering. I really feel for you from someone who knows what it is like to have tinnitus.
I’m so glad to hear that meditation helped you to habituate as well, though I disagree about it needing to be TM. Transcendental Meditation is definitely a good thing, but it’s extremely expensive. There are tons of other ways to learn to meditate. I also feel that TM is not the best type of meditation for facilitating habituation. I teach people to focus on the sound of their tinnitus as the object of meditation, rather than a mantra. Because anything can be the focal point of meditation, and because meditation is ultimately so relaxing, your brain begins to associate the relaxation state with the sound, overwriting the negative conditioning surrounding the tinnitus.