Hearing loss is not a one-size-fits-all condition. It can be in one ear or both, minor or extensive, and affect a wide range of tones. In many cases and for many reasons, it can also be accompanied by tinnitus.
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is considered one of the most common health conditions in the United States, affecting over 45 million Americans. Many things can trigger this often frustrating condition, generally considered a symptom of something else, including:
For those with tinnitus, relief from the buzzing or ringing is a top priority for overall health. In fact, tinnitus has been linked to other serious conditions including depression. Thankfully, researchers are working quickly to uncover strategies to successfully manage it as part of everyday life. These new ways to manage tinnitus and the stress it can bring include hearing aids, health and wellness, sound therapy, and now even mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation as a tinnitus solution is quickly gaining acceptance thanks to studies on its effectiveness and anecdotal evidence from those who have tried it on their own. A recent study at the University of California, San Francisco, took its cue from previous studies that tested Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a way to help those living with chronic pain. During the study, participants learned simple techniques to acknowledge the ringing sensation they experience with tinnitus rather than avoid it.
“Mindfulness practice,” said lead researcher Jennifer Gans, a psychologist with UCSF’s Medical Center, “helps people separate the physical sensation of the ringing from all the anxiety, thoughts, and emotions about the ringing. And this helps them heal.”
Mindfulness meditation has been practiced for thousands of years but has only recently started being used for tinnitus relief and similar health concerns. Like other forms of meditation, mindfulness meditation relies on deep breathing and relaxation with a focus on the rise and fall of the chest and stomach. Unlike other types of meditation, such as those simply for relaxation, a mindfulness practice brings attention and awareness to the present. This includes observing thoughts rather than clearing them and tuning into the physical and auditory sensations rather than setting them aside. It is this tuning into the physical sensations of tinnitus that many now believe can help sufferers manage the mental and emotional side of tinnitus and even changes the way the brain itself perceives tinnitus.
This mindfulness meditation allows those with tinnitus to identify the condition for what it is and separate it from the ingrained beliefs, worries, and expectations that they associate with it. Essentially, it removes the perceived “threat” of the ringing or buzzing in the ears.
While more research is still needed regarding mindfulness meditation for tinnitus, it has become a valuable strategy for many in managing tinnitus. If you are dealing with tinnitus, talk to your hearing healthcare provider about strategies such as mindfulness meditation that may help relieve its effects.