Desperate to clear up your tinnitus? Studies show that meditation can reduce your tinnitus symptoms and get you relief from ringing in your ears.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus, which includes 2 million with debilitating cases. To some, the ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears is a nuisance throughout the day that can be ignored. For others, the persistent noise makes it hard to hear, relax, and even sleep, leading to more serious health problems.
How to Get Your Mind Off Tinnitus
People rarely suffer from tinnitus alone. High blood pressure, anxiety, depression, teeth grinding, diet, lifestyle choices, and some medications can all contribute to this miserable condition, for which there is no cure. If you suffer from one of these conditions, treating it can help reduce symptoms to a level you can ignore.
Hearing specialists have worked over the years to develop several treatments that reduce tinnitus symptoms. Some are as simple as making changes to your diet, while others take advantage of advances in medical technology. Still, others treat the mental health aspect of tinnitus through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Recently, hearing specialists in the U.K. have combined CBT treatments with mindfulness training, which is a form of meditation…and the results have been promising. Of the 25 patients who took part in the meditation study, 80 percent reported a significant reduction in tinnitus symptoms.
So how can meditation so effectively clear up tinnitus symptoms? First, discover why stress can make tinnitus worse, then find out why meditation is a powerful option. (By the way, there are many things that can make tinnitus worse.)
Why Your Thoughts May Worsen Tinnitus
First of all, what is a messy mind? A messy or cluttered mind is often in a state of fight or flight. It’s stressed out a significant portion of the day. It may experience negative thought patterns, racing thoughts, repetitive thoughts, trouble sleeping, and general worry about life, the future, or the past.
People with a messy mind often feel scattered, and in extreme cases, it’s hard for them to remember important things or even think straight. All of this mess is generally the byproduct of our hectic lives because let’s face it: between family, Facebook, work, health, and the news, you probably have a lot on your mind.
Some people have learned to manage all of this busy-ness with less mess than others. It’s an acquired skill that they’ve been able to master, or even thrive on. But for others, dealing with the mess is a struggle. Every day presents a new challenge, and a new reason to be stressed out.
Unfortunately, all of this stress can take quite a physical toll on a person’s body. The conditions most commonly associated with increased stress levels are ulcers and high blood pressure, the latter of which is directly linked to tinnitus symptoms. That’s why people who suffer from hypertension or consume large amounts of caffeine or alcohol often exhibit signs of tinnitus and hearing loss, as these factors affect the blood vessels in the inner ear.
Also, increased stress levels can lead to excess adrenaline production, which is the hormone responsible for revving things up when you need to fight or run away from danger. However, adrenaline can wreak havoc on your body if you suffer from stress on a chronic basis since you never quite give yourself the rest you need from all that adrenaline. Among other things, adrenaline reduces the blood flow to your inner ear. The inner ear is a very delicate piece of machinery and it needs a constant supply of oxygen to function. If you cut that oxygen off, inner ear cells start to die.
Once these cells die, they can’t grow back. Permanent hearing loss and tinnitus can result. On top of this, during a state of stress, tinnitus will seem worse because you’re hyper-aware of your surroundings when you’re stressed out.
How to Clear Up Tinnitus Symptoms by Clearing Your Mind
Now that you know how excessive stress and its byproducts can cause tinnitus in some people, it should be easy to recognize that reducing stress levels can significantly reduce tinnitus symptoms. Depending on the severity of your tinnitus, you may find that your symptoms disappear or are at least greatly reduced by lowering stress-induced blood pressure and adrenaline production.
However, a question remains: why are some people able to manage stress more effectively, while others struggle to bring their thoughts and feelings under control? You may think that some people simply have less stress in their lives, but unfortunately, those people are not that lucky. In most cases, either through upbringing or learning later in life, they’ve learned the secret to clearing their minds and managing stress. It’s a valuable tool to learn, and the good news is that anybody can learn how to manage stress.
One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through meditation. Meditation is a mindfulness exercise that can help clear a cluttered mind, and as noted above, has been shown to significantly help people who suffer from tinnitus.
Tune Out the Ringing in Your Ears
Many people find it useful to set some time aside once or twice a day to meditate, for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour (depending on how much free time you have or how stressed you’re feeling). When you do, you’ll find that your mind feels clearer and cleaner. Things that might normally stress you out seem more like hurdles to jump to achieve your goals. It becomes easier to focus on the positive and find solutions, instead of thinking that your problems are insurmountable and getting caught up in a cycle of despair.
As you do, you’ll notice that your tinnitus symptoms become less pronounced. It’s easier to hear and follow conversations. You no longer feel like you’re battling tinnitus while you try to sleep.
But all of this may sound easier said than done. It does take some skill to learn how to effectively meditate, but we’ve listed a few ways to help you on your journey to successfully clear up your tinnitus symptoms through meditation.
Reduce Tinnitus Symptoms. Get Started with Meditation.
Meditation takes many forms and you may need to experiment to find what works for you. You may find that it’s easier to meditate by yourself, or you may get more results by meditating as part of a mindfulness group. In any case, here are a few tips on how to get started with meditation to reduce tinnitus:
- Find a quiet place to sit upright in a comfortable chair.
- Avoid using noise-makers or loud music for this meditation. You need to be able to hear your tinnitus so that you’ll realize when you don’t anymore.
- Breathe deeply and slowly. A person who is stressed breathes shallowly and quickly. Train your body to breathe deeply. You’ll instantly feel more relaxed.
- If you can’t bear sitting in the silence, listen to a guided meditation that speaks to you or focus intently on each breath.
- Sit as still and as quietly as you can.
- If you become aware of a distraction like ringing in the ears, don’t resist it. Instead, focus your energy on another part of your body like your leg. As you do this, you’ll notice that the distraction goes away.
- If a thought wanders into your mind, don’t stress about the fact that you’re thinking. Instead, imagine the thought drifting away like a leaf in a stream.
At first, you’ll have lots of leaves floating on that stream. It may even be hard to “see” the water in your mind. But if you stick with a meditation schedule, they become fewer and fewer.
Focus on the space between thoughts. As you do, you’ll notice that it grows. As it does, you’ll also notice that your tinnitus symptoms get less and less.
The more you meditate, the longer and longer this respite from tinnitus will last. In addition to sitting meditation, try meditating yourself to sleep. It’s incredible.
Meditation Has Other Health Benefits
Research has shown that meditation can also improve anxiety, fatigue, blood pressure, and even IBS. Meditation has also been shown to improve your ability to change bad behaviors, such as quitting smoking.
What If You Can’t Tune Out Your Tinnitus?
If silence and meditation aren’t working, try a low-level background noise. You don’t want to expose yourself to loud noise, but you may be able to drown it out with white noise such as a fan, or by using a tinnitus masker.
Still, hearing ringing in your ears? Here are more ideas to clear up your tinnitus symptoms.
Page medically reviewed by Kevin St. Clergy, Audiologist, on April 28, 2020.