For as long as I can remember, silence has had a sound.
The ringing never stops. It’s like a broken soundtrack for the silence in my every day life and a constant reminder that I have Meniere’s disease.
It never stops…but it’s not always there, either. Over the years, I’ve learned to work with my Tinnitus rather than against it. I’ve learned to stop fighting and, as a result, it often fades from my awareness.
Tinnitus can drive you crazy, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can learn to live with your Tinnitus.
In honor of Tinnitus Awareness Week (February 8th – 14th), I decided to revisit the ever present noises that so many of us hear, and share some of my strategies for success.
A BIG Problem:
Tinnitus is a much bigger problem than most people realize. In fact, it’s one of the most prevalent health conditions in the United States, affecting more than 15% of the general population. That’s nearly 50 million people in the US alone.
With these kinds of numbers, you would expect to hear about it more than we actually do.
And that’s unfortunate, because there is still no cure for tinnitus and while many people, like myself, have learned to live with it, not everyone is so lucky. There needs to be a lot more research. We know it originates in the brain, but we still don’t know where, or even what causes it.
To make matters even more complicated, not everyone experiences Tinnitus in the same way.
Some people, like me, hear a constant high pitched tone. Others hear low pitched tones, chirps, beeps, whooshing sounds, clicks or a wide variety of other strange noises. Some people even hear music.
And while we may not be able to control it, we can learn to control our emotional response.
In my opinion, the first step to managing Tinnitus is learning to focus your attention.
I’ve found that it’s the most powerful skill we can cultivate to experience relief, but not in the way you might think.
Most people try to ignore the sound of their Tinnitus, but succeed only in feeling more frustrated. And over time, we start to associate the sound of our Tinnitus with the feelings of frustration, until eventually, the sound can become a constant source of stress and negative emotions.
But it’s also possible to associate your Tinnitus with a positive emotion, or at the very least, one that isn’t harmful. When this connection is made, Tinnitus is transformed into something useful, and as a result, it often just fades into the background of our daily lives.
In my experience, the most effective way to cause this emotional shift is by practicing what I like to call “Tinnitus Meditation.”
If meditation is the gentle focusing of your attention on a single point of awareness, like your breath or a mantra, Tinnitus Meditation is simply focusing your attention on the sound of your Tinnitus.
It works well for several reasons. First, it allows you to use your Tinnitus as a tool for positive change and personal growth. This alone can cause powerful shift in your perspective. But it also lets you experience the deep relaxation of meditation while actively focusing on your Tinnitus, connecting a positive and rewarding experience to the sound.
For a long time, this was the most powerful approach I knew for managing Tinnitus. But in the year since I published this technique, I’ve discovered several new strategies to make it even more effective.
While researching Tinnitus and experimenting with treatments, I came across a practice called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). According to the American Tinnitus Association, TRT is:
“A treatment regimen that combines the use of traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy counseling with supplemental sound masking to habituate patients to tinnitus. The counseling component aims to demystify tinnitus and help the patient reclassify perceived ringing as an emotionally-neutral signal.”
Many people find success with TRT, but it can take anywhere from 8-24 months before you start experiencing results.
I haven’t tried TRT, but that seems like a long time. Tinnitus Meditation started working almost immediately for me, and its goal is to create an emotionally-positive association, rather than an emotionally-neutral one.
I have, however, found that one aspect of TRT can greatly improve Tinnitus Meditation, especially early on: partial tinnitus masking.
The strategy here is simply to use some type of sound masking technology, like white noise, to partially block out the sound of your Tinnitus as you practice the Tinnitus Meditation technique.
While it’s only a small change, it can have a big impact on your success, especially if you still have a strong negative emotional response to your Tinnitus. The reduction in Tinnitus volume will help you relax while the masking gives you another point of awareness to focus your attention.
Always start by focusing on the sound of your Tinnitus, but from time to time, try shifting your awareness to the masking sound. Over time, I was able to tune out the Tinnitus entirely when I shifted my focus.
Also, because it can be hard to maintain your focus, you may find your mind naturally drifts away from the sound of your Tinnitus. For a period of time, it may fade from your awareness entirely.
Sound Masking Technologies:
Brainwave Training Enhanced Tinnitus Meditation:
For those who have never tried it, the basic premise is simple. Our mental states and experiences cause specific changes in our brainwaves. But we can also induce specific mental states, and change how we feel, by changing our brainwaves with an external stimulus like sound.
It’s known as Brainwave Entrainment and it can be leveraged to make Tinnitus Meditation exponentially more powerful.
By partially masking your tinnitus with audio engineered to induce a deeply relaxed state of consciousness, and practicing the Tinnitus Meditation at the same time, you can elicit a positive emotional response to your Tinnitus on day one.
You don’t need Brainwave Entrainment to start seeing results. But without it, it will most likely take time and daily practice before you will be able reach the deep meditative states that this technology offers, on-demand.
I am currently working on a Tinnitus Relief Brainwave Entrainment program that I will release at some point in the near future, but for now, I encourage you to try it with any of the Stress Melter Tracks from the Symptom Relief Project, or any of the Zen Vitality Meditations. (Download 3 of the Zen Vitality Meditations for free here or use promo code menieres for 50% off the full program)
Just make sure to use headphones and keep the volume low enough so that you can still hear your tinnitus.
Once you start seeing results with the Tinnitus Meditation, you can increase your success even further by practicing with ear plugs.
While the goal of partial masking is to make it easier for you early on, the goal here is to make it more challenging. As your emotional response to your Tinnitus starts to improve, this will give you the opportunity to master your control.
Tinnitus is always louder and more noticeable in quiet environments, so by wearing earplugs you are forced to face the sound of your Tinnitus and nothing else. On one hand, eliminating other sounds can improve your meditative focus, but it also makes it much harder to stay calm.
In the end, however, when you can perform the Tinnitus Meditation technique successfully in complete and total silence, your Tinnitus will rarely ever bother you.
In daily life, you may not even notice it any more.
I haven’t always had my Tinnitus under control. My memory is littered with sleepless nights going all the way back to my early teens. I know how much it can impact your life in a negative way, and I know that so many of you do, too.
But it’s possible to find relief. Until the science catches up, your Tinnitus may not go away, but your perception of it can change, and more often than not, that’s all that really matters. In the end, if it doesn’t bother you, it’s no longer a problem.
This is the most efficient way to cope with Tinnitus that I’ve ever seen, and since publishing the original technique, I’ve heard from hundreds of people who have also had success. People who had trouble sleeping for years found rest, while others who had suffered found peace.
The next time you find yourself facing your Tinnitus in anger, I encourage you to try Tinnitus Meditation and incorporate some of these strategies.
It takes some practice, but it works fast. And in a meaningful way, you can reclaim your sense of silence.