Treating Tinnitus: It’s Not About the Noise

Glenn Treatment 60 Comments

Have you ever felt trapped by a sound?

A noise that just gets under your skin and makes you want to run out of the room?

Maybe it’s the clicking of a fan as you try to fall asleep, the subtle buzz of a fluorescent light, or the screech of nails on a chalkboard. At its worst, it can feel like torture.

But what if you couldn’t escape it? What if you were forced to hear terrible, stressful noises all the time?

It’s not a pleasant thought. But for me, and for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who suffer from tinnitus, the medical term for ringing in the ears, it’s our everyday reality. And it drives a lot of people crazy.

More than meets the ears

We end up spending so much time and energy worrying about how loud it seems or what it sounds like. We look for ways to drown it out and miracle cures to quiet it down. But I’ve come to believe that it’s the wrong approach.

When you have tinnitus, the only question that really matters is: “Does it bother you?”

Because if it does, you can do something about it. It’s the one thing that you actually have the power to change. There may not be a cure, or a reliable way to reduce the volume, but you can get to a place where it stops bothering you and dramatically improve your quality of life.


You would never know it if you met me in a quiet room, but my head is a noisy place.

Usually, it’s a loud high pitched tone, but I hear other sounds, too. Sometimes I get multiple tones and whooshing noises. They made my life a living hell for a long time.

But today, things are different. I still hear my tinnitus, and it still spikes from time to time, but it rarely ever bothers me anymore. Because several years back, I stumbled onto an exercise that radically changed the way I react to the sound and allowed me to habituate.

You see, the human brain is incredibly good at filtering out meaningless background noise from our conscious awareness. This mental process is called habituation and it’s how were able to work in noisy offices and carry on conversations in crowded rooms.

But it’s also the answer to tinnitus.

There’s just one problem, and it’s a big one.

For reasons that will become clear in a moment, it’s simply not possible to habituate to a sound that implies a threat or carries a negative association of any kind, both of which describe tinnitus.

Our reaction to tinnitus is the root of the problem:

It can be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the noise itself isn’t the problem. Obviously, if there was a way to silence your tinnitus, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

But the underlying issue is that we react to the sound emotionally as if we’re in danger. And because our brains can’t tell the difference between a real and perceived threat, the reaction is the same.

In other words, the sound of our tinnitus triggers a stress response and puts us into a perpetual low level state of fight or flight.

Stress hormones flood the body, adrenaline goes up and our senses become heightened. It’s our body’s way of responding to danger and it happens automatically.

Most of us try to ignore the sound but fail because consciously ignoring it ultimately is an act of paying attention. I’ll give you an example: Don’t think about the yellow elephant.

You did it anyways, didn’t you? You pictured a yellow elephant.

It’s the same idea, but with tinnitus it’s worse. Because the harder we try to ignore it, the harder our brain fights to redirect our attention to the perceived source of the threat.

Under normal circumstances, when we have a stress response, our bodies return to baseline once the danger is resolved. But tinnitus doesn’t just go away. It becomes a vicious cycle of frustration, pain, and misery.

Tinnitus pain

(Image Source: YouTube)

But there’s a silver lining to it all. The one thing that we can change is the very thing that prevents us from habituating and finding relief. We have the power to change our reaction to the sound.

It’s not easy because we react automatically, but it’s possible, and that’s all that matters.

Rewiring Tinnitus:

Most people’s first instinct with tinnitus is to drown it out with background noise. Tinnitus is loudest in silence and ambient noise can help us cope.

But it doesn’t directly address the fundamental issue that prevents habituation from happening in the first place. It’s kind of like taking Advil for a broken nose. It might help you feel better in the moment, but it doesn’t treat the injury.

At its core, sound masking is just another way to ignore the problem. But serious problems don’t just go away when we ignore them. I’ve never “ignored away” a problem in my entire life.

Though I must admit, I say this all in hindsight. I didn’t habituate intentionally, at least not at first. I stumbled into it completely by accident as I struggled to meditate.

At the time, my tinnitus was getting worse and my meditation practice was really starting to suffer. It was becoming more and more difficult to focus on my breath with the sound of sirens blaring in my ears.


But one evening, lying in bed, trying to ignore the noise, I was hit with an idea. If meditation involved focusing my attention onto a single point of awareness, like my breathing, what would happen if I focused on my tinnitus instead?

All I knew was that it felt like a bad idea. But I gave it a shot anyways. And it changed everything.

Flash of insight:

The first breakthrough happened almost immediately.

When you meditate, your mind tends to wander. It happens to everyone, especially people new to meditation. But it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Catching yourself when your mind wanders and bringing your focus back, starting over, is the actual exercise.

But this time, when my mind wandered, it wandered away from the sound. The realization hit me like a ton of bricks. For that brief moment, my tinnitus hadn’t bothered me at all. It was profound.

The second breakthrough happened a few minutes later. As I continued to meditate, focusing on the sound, I started to feel very relaxed. I was fairly experienced with meditation and when I stopped fighting to ignore the sound, I was able to meditate much more deeply.

And most surprising of all, when I finished, my tinnitus seemed quieter. It wasn’t actually quieter, it just wasn’t bothering me as much, so it didn’t seem as loud. I couldn’t believe it.


I didn’t understand it at the time, but my brain was starting to associate the deep relaxation of meditation with the sound of my tinnitus.

It was my first real taste of relief and the beginning of something much larger than myself.

It’s a journey:

Over the following few weeks, I continued to practice the technique and I was able to fully habituate.

After suffering for so long, it felt like I had discovered some kind of weird super power. It was hard to believe, but I was doing so much better. My stress levels dropped and my tinnitus stopped bothering me entirely. It never went away but my quality of life went way up.

It’s been several years now since I first stumbled on to tinnitus meditation and so much has changed.

I’ve been able to connect with hundreds of other tinnitus sufferers around the world, sharing ideas, learning, and being inspired. It’s been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my entire life.

And my ideas have evolved considerably, too. So much so in fact, that I ended up writing a new book called Rewiring Tinnitus: How I Finally Found Relief From the Ringing in My Ears! A book that is finally finished and jam packed with tools, techniques, meditations and so much more. (I’ve even created a comprehensive album of guided meditations and complementary audio to make it all easier for you!)



I believe tinnitus will be cured in the next ten to twenty years, but so much more research is needed. We still can only guess where tinnitus arises in the brain and have very little understanding of the underlying pathways and mechanisms involved.

But at the same time, there is hope for today. Because we can change our reaction to the sound. We can habituate.

It may not go away, or even become quieter, but we can get to a place where it stops bothering us, and in my book, that’s just as good. Because when it stops bothering us, we stop reacting and start to tune it out naturally.

We can improve our quality of life and that’s what matters most.

Comments 60

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      1. I listened to you on zoom. I have tinnitus for 14 months with little improvement. I think it started as I result of severe anxiety caused by being told I had prostate cancer. The prostate was removed so my anxiety has now being fuelled by tinnitus. I have apps to help me and medication to relieve my anxiety. I know Treble Health do not provide retraining in Britain. Further to the zoom I would like to take advantage of the free 45 minute consultation

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  1. Love your book! Started meditating last week. Focusing is the hardest, but not giving up, practice makes perfect. I really want this to work. And that is the key not to give up and you have to want this to work to get results. Thank you.

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      Hi Judy, I’m so glad you enjoyed the book and I wish you the best of luck with the exercises! If you’re struggling a bit, I would recommend trying it with the audio program I wrote about it the book. The guided meditations I created will automatically put you in the deep state of relaxation necessary for it to work, regardless of what your tinnitus sounds like, or whether or not you’re experienced with meditation. It’s a much faster way to see results! If you ever have any questions, I’m always around:

    2. So apparently the idea is to meditate on the Tinnitus itself ? How does one do that, simply attempt to concentrate on the sound ?

  2. Hi Glenn, please keep up the great work you are doing. I purchased your book and audio programs and have used them daily for 3 months now and I believe I am just starting to maybe habituate. Any idea how much longer?

  3. I find it very hard to relax and always have therefore reading about Tinnitus and seeing one of the main points it to Relax with this sound ringing,humming, banging ect i find as with many others very hard.You say Meditation can help well the way i feel i will try anything Glenn so today i have found 2 new tools that may help with this Tinnitus i and others are suffering with.Tinnitus Trigger Tool and now Meditation.

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  4. the pharma maffia has no interested in spending money…. they will prescribe you pills against depression that will bring on more problems… that is the way it is

  5. I think I did something similar accidently. I had tinnitus sporadically since I was about 12 or 13. Never told anyone about it because I was scared. Finally in my 20s or 30s when it was becoming constant I talked to my doctor, had an MRI. No brain tumor. No aneurysm. So I decide not to worry and just go about my life. I guess I just got used to it. I get a variety of sounds and sometime I have to laugh a little because it reminds me of the space ship sounds from the movies and TV shows when I was a kid. I’m often reminded of the ant sounds from the movie Them. Having a weird sense of humor has helped. Glad I found your articles. 🙂

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      Hi Cathy, I’m glad you got used to it! It sounds like you’ve habituated naturally, which does happen for many people. And I agree, having a sense of humor definitely helps!

  6. My typewriter tinnitus comes and goes in an uneven fashion. Some clicks are short, some long with intermittent times between clicks and sometimes long times before any clicks. When I try your idea of focusing on the sound, it becomes Chinese water torture waiting for the next drop to fall. Any ideas?

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  7. Hi Glenn,

    I finished your book today and did my very first tinnitus meditation. I was anxious, but amazed at how good it felt!!! Thank you for that!

    I wanted to download the journaling tool and I clicked on the button saying “download for free.” However, I received a welcome memo from you and not the journaling tool. Could you please tell me where to go to get this form?

    Thank you again.

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  8. I read, rather than heard, the podcast you did for ATA and immediately bought the tinnitus book. I am deaf in one ear, most of what I hear are the tinnitus sounds. The concept of mediating to the sounds of tinnitus has been a real help. At this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for your podcast and book.

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  9. Hi Glen,
    I’ve read some articles that you have posted and I have to say the meditation approach is genius. I would have never thought of focusing on the sound as on my breathing when I meditate but I’ll give it a try. Just these few lines offered me so much insight.
    I’ve been fortunate enough to not experience tinnitus when awake and during my day, but it’s pestering me every night when I lie down and try to sleep or relax.I have behaved exactly like you described. My anxiety spiked, I’m frustrated and feel dumb because I consciously tell myself ” it’s just a sound” but when time comes to lie down it’s like I’m sleeping next to a factory.
    Mine behaves like a roaring sound in the distance and I feel anxious and alert like I’m waiting for something to happen.
    Sometimes it’s a bit deafened but even then I can’t help but focus too much on it since I feel like something is about to explode.
    This is largely affecting my emotional state since I have battled generalized anxiety and fortunately won a year ago. However some of the sensibility is still there and tinnitus coudln’t have come at a worse time. Just when I thought all is well. Oh well …
    I can’t wait for the book to arrive though and win this one too.
    Thank you!

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  10. I want to be optimistic after reading this but I find this to be ridiculous at the moment. I am going on 16 years of non stop tinnitus in both ears. For the first 15 I refused to let it stop me but the last year I have been running out of gas. I stumbled upon this article after a doctor mentioned this technique. So the suggestion is to focus on the tinnitus? That comes easy as it keeps me up at night. Greats me the moment I wake up when I do get to sleep. At any given time I have 2 to 5 different tones going on in each ear and at times pulsating and thumping. I get nauseous daily from the high screeches. I am an artist and sure I have my moments when I am in the zone but these times of clarity have become further apart, and fewer. I can’t help feel that this “technique” isn’t for everyone. Someone suggesting what you are enrages me because I feel it’s false hope.

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      Hi Andre, I completely understand your skepticism. However it’s important to understand that their is a huge difference between focusing on your tinnitus because it’s bothering you and what I am describing here, which is making the sound of your tinnitus the object of meditation. I totally understand how crazy of a proposition this seems on the surface, especially if you aren’t experienced with meditation and you are experiencing multiple fluctuating tones. I am well aware of how difficult this practice would be for someone in your position. I offer several tools that can help to make this practice much easier and more effective for someone new to meditation, such as this audio program. I encourage you to try the free sample of the guided brainwave entrainment meditations. (If you’d like to learn more, this post explains how the audio program makes tinnitus meditation easier and more effective.)

      Because meditation is such a calming/relaxing practice, and because anything can be used as the focal point of meditation, when you practice tinnitus focused meditation in a way where you actually achieve these states of relaxation, and you practice it every day, overtime your brain will start to associate the state of relaxation with the sounds of your tinnitus. This facilitates the habituation process. But it takes time. I’ve written about many other strategies to improve quality of life in the short term as people work through this process.

      This article doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as some of my other work. If you want to learn more about my story and strategies, you can check out my interview with the American Tinnitus Association, this presentation I gave on behalf of the Hearing Loss Association of America, or this presentation I gave to the Vestibular Disorders Association.

      I’m sorry you feel that this strategy offers false hope, and if you do end up trying it, I hope it helps you as much as it has me and the hundreds of other people I hear from on a regular basis. Best of luck to you! And if you ever have questions, feel free to reach out:

  11. Hi Glenn, been living with two police cars, one in each ear, chasing speeders for much of twelve years. The “Noise” as I call it, never use the term “my tinnitus” because I do not want to make claim to that which I did not ask for. I also refer to it as “Screaming Ears” and other more derogatory names. But mine has a pattern, first day, right ear, loud, second day, higher pitch, both ears, louder, third day usually so high pitch it almost fades, both ears, what relief it is. Then back to the first day. Most of the time this 3 day cycle is constant. I have also read latest research that the “Vagus Nerve” may be involved, stimulating the audio cortex just inside the ears.

    Have both your book and Julian Hill’s where he claims that “the noise” has to do with the nervous system being over stimulate, giving credence to the Vagus Nerve concept. However, years ago I learned “bio feedback” on relaxation and below the neck my body is relaxed and on demand. So, to train the brain to do the same with “the noise” has been futile. Going to read your book again, just seems focusing upon that which is hell would only more deeply entrench it in the subconscious.

    Also, thanks for all the info and you effort in trying to assist us and other. Your generosity is appreciated. As for using outside sounds, Meniere’s has trashed the right ear and I have 50% remaining of the left.

    Thanks, Martin

  12. I think this is a good analogy, but the typo does make it seem a bit funny (or Freudian, maybe?).

    “But it doesn’t directly address the fundamental issue that prevents habituation from happening in the first place. It’s kind of like taking Advil for a broken noise.”

    I assume you meant broken _nose_ ! If Advil treated broken NOISE, we’d have the magic cure. 😀

    Kris, 20+ year tinnitus _habitué_

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      1. I have just started reading your information and think it might be helpful for me as I try to deal better with my tinnitus/vertigo condition. You show on one of your sites a tinnitus trigger tool, a journaling page you suggest using, that I would like to try using. However, when I try to download it or acquire it, i get nothing. I get a message that I can’t be added to the list. Once I received a message saying I would receive it momentarily and I never did. I don’t know if your system has a problem or if I’m doing something wrong, but I would really like to try working with this tool to see if I can try some of your methods. Can you help me?

        I found a link that indicated I could just print a copy but it wouldn’t work. Is there a link like that one that would work better?

        1. Hi Glenn, I tried to download the PDF recording tool and received the same message, that I couldn’t be added to the list. Is there another way I could receive it? Thanks

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  13. Hi Glen, I read your book. One question. When I see in my minds eye the volume knob and switches. I cannot get my tinnitus to lessen at all. I see myself turning the volume down, but the noise stays constant. Am I doing it wrong. I’m very new to meditation. Also how many times a day should one do this. Is more times better?

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      Hi Barbara, great question. The short answer is no, you are not doing it wrong. The true purpose of this exercise is that it gets you to focus on and meditate to your tinnitus in a more engaging way than simply listening to it. It makes it more accessible for new meditators.

      For a while, I assumed that more people would be able to manipulate the sound to some degree because I could, but I found in practice that only about 10-20% of people are able to do this. If you can, it’s an interesting experience to have, but it’s not the point of the exercise.

      The strategy is not to learn to turn the volume down with your imagination, but to use meditation as a way to achieve a positive experience for your brain to associate with the sound.

      Hope that helps!

  14. Thank you very much indeed, you don’t know how much it has helped me. I suffered severe Tinnitus like yours, and have fallen into depression for more than a month. It relieved me in less than one hour like you said, and the best part is my depression seemed to go away day by day. Thank you so very much, May God Bless you.

  15. Glen, I’ve had tinnitus for four months now. How I got it is quite bizarre. I won’t get into details but I went for CAT scan last night. Since I don’t know what exactly is wrong with my ears, it leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions. This of course raises my anxiety and fear about tinnitus and my future.

    I know habituation is a process but I REALLY want to do it. I have different tones and frequencies as well. How does one habituate to changing tinnitus? I’m hoping to God mine will go away eventually but I’m not holding my breath. The problem is I am scared of my tinnitus. I don’t know how to cope with it. I know 4 months is not a very long time. Even with background noise at night, I get severe anxiety attacks. There are points where I force myself to lay down without background noise and listen to my tinnitus.

    I’m not very good at mediating but I am working on it. Please help me out. I want to get better.

    Thanks so much

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  16. I have tried meditating on the constant but random clicking sounds in my head but it seems to be training my brain to pay more attention to it.
    The clicks are anywhere from <1 second apart up to ~ five or six seconds apart but I've only found keeping extremely busy or holding a conversation is the only way to find relief.

    Meditation may be a great idea for the buzzing and roaring of course which is much easier to deal with but I think the random and oftentimes loud clicking can startle and distract just about all aspects of life.
    I pray I don't have to learn to live with this!

    CBD oil has been my only form of slight relief. It's not quieter but I'm relaxed enough to handle it better. Thanks for your article! If I have to live with these new noises I'll have to check out your book!

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  17. Hey Glen, I have tried your approach over the last two days after seeing your You Tube videos. Literally the first time, it seemed to produce an immediate effect, and I was quietly relieved. Today has been a nightmare again, but I managed to bring the noise and stress down by literally being with people (in a hotel), and having a beer to relax (yes, I know alcohol is not great, but it did relax me). Back home, still fine. I did some meditation body scan intending to them move into the tinnitus. But at the end of the body scan, maybe triggered by the little bell being struck after the gentle impact, I felt the sound rising as if someone was turning a knob and it just flooded in, louder than ever before. I see you material on spikes and your book is arriving tomorrow. I like your message. I am sure habituation works, but it seems like a major challenge. And this spike after feeling better really hits hard.

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      Hi Chris, glad to hear that you had initial success! That’s definitely a great sign. Just keep in mind that spikes and setbacks are an unavoidable part of the habituation process and it’s about being consistent with the daily practice of tinnitus focused meditation over time that facilitates long term progress with this. I hope you get a lot out of my book! And if you ever have questions or need additional support, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at

  18. I’ve been suffering with Tinnitus for about 4.5 years now Glenn. I am glad I read your blog/site because I hate the thought of being stuck using a white noise app on my phone, forever 🙁 24/7 I have it on unless I am out and about. Even a walk, with living on the windy coast here in the NW is helpful. I want to learn more about this meditation thing. I have never, honestly tried, and I do need to learn how to do it.

    One thing makes me want to read more of your stuff Glenn, and that is because I tried to pay attention to my tinnitus at night before I fell asleep (gave up and turned on my white-noise app). But honestly, I have to say by paying attention to the ringing in my head/ears, made it get quieter. I don’t know why I haven’t tried harder, but your articles are making me want to try, thank you much, and I’ll continue to read.

  19. Hi Glen,
    Many thanks for this.
    I have tinnitus from Lyme Disease.
    Left ear Very bad.
    I will try meditation.
    Are you recommending I concentrate ony T whilst meditating ? Is that the approach I should take.
    Thanks again
    Dave Houlihan

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      Hi David, yes exactly – you use the sound of your tinnitus as the object of meditation. This can be difficult though initially, especially if you have never meditated before. Use partial masking when you attempt it the first time to make it easier, and the more you can do to relax before you meditate, the more likely it will go well. You can use my audio program for this as well, which features guided, brainwave entrainment enhanced (puts you in a relaxation state automatically) meditations with background noise.

  20. Thanks for the information. I don’t have a problem with Tinnitus itself. My problem is with certain noises and loudness. Sometimes (fewer and fewer of those) my T quite be quite relaxing…like a soft hissing, a wavy chime, or crickets…however, the dark side comes when it becomes extremely loud skull piercing, an electric buzz, or a very high pitch in both ears. That’s when desperation takes over, and I have to change my T-Shirt at night because it’s soaked in sweat….or I feel like vomiting because I don’t know how to get rid of it. For some reason the word habituation seems possible, but only in certain cases. If I had this sort of affliction in a leg, arm, I’d rather have it amputated. But I can’t amputate my head (because the noise comes from my brain). So yes, habituation seems a little bit far fetched for me. How my brain is going to ignore such a horrible and loud noise?

  21. Hello. Thank you for all the great information. I have tried to download your PDF tool but it’s not sending the form to my email. Can you send directly, please?

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  22. Thank you for the great information. My tinnitus is not really bad yet. I am hoping to keep it from getting worse. My real question is can habituation also work for other noises in the environment? I have a child that makes a repetitive noise and it can go on for the longest time! It drives me crazy. Would your ideas work in a situation like that? Thank you for your help.

  23. I just stumbled on this page and read through multiple comments but did not see any related to my situation. I have been dealing with on and off tinnitus for just over a year. As a musician, this totally sucks.

    Last year it was accompanied with severe vertigo (to the point of throwing up) that lasted for a couple hours. That happened a few times over a couple months. Then, the vertigo went away and tinnitus was not as loud for about a year – I thought it was gone. But today it is back again. Very loud tinnitus and I had a severe vertigo attack. My vertigo attack is so severe that the tinnitus is totally secondary. I am scared to death that I might have a flare up in public (or worse while driving, etc.) Did you have these vertigo symptoms with your tinnitus? Mine seem to be associated.

    I plan to read your book but was curious if there are any initial thoughts on managing the associated severe vertigo?

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      Hi Charles, My story is actually almost identical to yours as a vestibular disorder called Meniere’s disease is the cause of my tinnitus. I actually discuss this at length in the Rewiring Tinnitus book (which is currently available for free on Amazon in the US if you have a Prime membership), and I also have a whole other website about my journey with Meniere’s disease:

      You need to first get a diagnosis on the vertigo and the kind of doctor you want to see is called a Neurotologist. They are ENT docs who have subspecialized in treating hearing and balance disorders and you can find a great one by searching for Neurotologists near your zipcode on

  24. Glenn, found your book on the web when I started being concerned about my increasing T. which ahs been diagnosed as hearing loss induced T. but it has gotten worse in the last 6 months maybe due to a new type of head set called aftershox at a high volume, also maybe due to the covid vaccine. either way i’m in it now and it is a bit scary. I have tried some of your ideas and i do get some relief like small steps at habituation, but then I have relapse and then the fear and stress and the vicious cycle comes full swing. going back to your book to keep trying.

    Now I hear… ha…. heat that their is not enough research happening for T since it is not life threatening. Who’s doing research now and what is the strategy?

    Thanks Glenn.

  25. I have no idea if this stratagy will work but am going to give it a try after reading the book. I do have one question do you do the meditation once and day and is it t a pspecific time of day.

  26. What if your tinnitus is caused from bilateral Meniers disease Glenn ?
    Accompanied by extreme pressure and aural fulness . With the added bonus
    of your balance nerve also being affected ?

    Abnormal fluid in the inner ear inhibits your regular function of the ear causing
    fluctuating hearing loss or in my case , profound deafness .

    Google drop attacks if you following me so far ! The final stages of the disease !

    God help anyone who has to live with this !!

    Please if anyone else is struggling with this let me know and
    whether or not they have applied for disability ?

    Best ,Bill Ontario Canada

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