Meditation has been practiced in ancient wisdom traditions for thousands of years. Historians believe that people were meditating as early as 3000 BCE, but it doesn’t enter the written record until 1500 BCE by way of the ancient Hindu tradition of Vedantism.
And although it has been used as a spiritual technology for many generations, only recently have Western scientists begun to study meditation. What they have found is that meditation has a wealth of health benefits, from lowering blood pressure to treating chronic health conditions like tinnitus.
What is tinnitus
You may have heard people complain about an incessant ringing in their ears. Tinnitus can be a perplexing condition, because the sound is not externally present. Instead, it is subjective which means that it impacts the sensory experience of the person with the tinnitus symptoms. That means that the persistent ringing being heard cannot be turned off or turned down. Most people with tinnitus describe its effects as anything from mildly irritating to unbearable.
While we often use ‘ringing’ as a way to describe the sound symptoms that tinnitus causes, people hear all sorts of various sounds. Some people with tinnitus hear a whooshing, buzzing, clicking or roaring, and many sounds in between.
Causes of tinnitus
Rather than existing as a condition in and of itself, tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying problem. In most cases, people experience tinnitus symptoms because of untreated hearing loss, caused by aging or exposure to loud noises. Nine out of ten people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. However, not all people — or even a majority of people — who have hearing loss also report tinnitus.
There are more rare causes of tinnitus, too. Circulatory problems can also result in tinnitus, when the tissues and nerves of the inner ear don’t receive a healthy blood flow. Head or neck injuries can sometimes produce tinnitus symptoms, as can bony growths within the ear or a buildup of earwax.
For a majority of people with tinnitus, treating the underlying condition can resolve or lessen symptoms.
How mindfulness helps with tinnitus
Today, experts have started to incorporate mindfulness training as a way to help relieve the burden of tinnitus symptoms when more typical treatments don’t work or for people with severe cases.
When people with tinnitus begin to meditate, they practice the art of separating from their thoughts and experience. This may sound impossible. How can you separate yourself from what is happening to you?
But meditation does exactly that, asking you to sit quietly or move intentionally and truly notice everything around you and in you. From there, your work is to breathe calmly and let it all be there. Over time, the stimulus of your thoughts and those of the external world will hold less power. You will no longer feel the need to react to external prompts.
This is how meditation can help with the treatment of tinnitus. People who suffer from the symptoms are frustrated and distracted by the constant noise. When they practice meditation, they learn how to let the noise be there without causing the same level of irritation.
Types of meditation
There are many, many different types of meditation out there. And while anyone can begin meditating at any time, it can help to find a type of meditation that you like in order for the habit to stick. Below are a few options that are particularly suitable for beginners.
- Guided meditation
Most beginners choose to start with Guided Meditations. There are apps (like Insight Timer, Calm or Headspace) that make cultivating a habit very easy. You can also search on YouTube for Guided Meditation videos.
You’ll sit or lay quietly while a person narrates a meditation for you, which makes a Guided Meditation a good first step for people who find it hard to quiet their mind.
- Walking meditation
You can find guided walking meditations on various meditation apps or on YouTube. Pop your headphones on and walk slowly and intentionally around your house or yard. This is a great option for people who find it impossible to sit still.
- Mantra Meditation
Deepok Chopra offers mantra meditations through his website and app. As the meditation begins, he’ll give you a Sanskrit mantra to use. You’ll repeat the phrase in your mind which can help with focus.
You can do this on your own by choosing a few words or a short affirmation. Simply pick one that appeals to you and silently repeat it while you sit in meditation.