Mindfulness for tinnitus
Mindfulness is a technique that has been used for thousands of years to gain a sense of peace and happiness. Over the past few decades, a ton of research has come out to support its role in modern healthcare. In a few years time, it may even be common practice for tinnitus clinics to use mindfulness.
Tinnitus affects each and every person differently and if your tinnitus bothers you on a daily basis or stops you from doing things you would normally do, it’s likely that you haven’t gotten used to it being there. Failing to habituate to tinnitus was pointed out as a big factor for why tinnitus bothers some people more than others by a study done in 2004. Simply put, when you get used to something, you notice it less and the less it will bother you.
Mindfulness Basics for Tinnitus (MBT) focuses on getting you to the point of fully accepting the tinnitus and habituating to it. You might often find that the more you resist and try to mentally push the tinnitus away, the worse it gets. However, if you put the emphasis on cultivating a state of acceptance, the tinnitus will eventually become something you get used to and not a monster inside your head.
Although this might seem very simplistic, several studies have supported the effectiveness of mindfulness for tinnitus over the past few years. A study done in 2017 measured how distressing tinnitus was for 182 chronic sufferers before and after a mindfulness course. MBT was associated with significant reductions in tinnitus-related and psychological distress. Even though this is a relatively small study, the results are definitely encouraging!
So what does MBT actually involve? MBT often starts with the basics of meditating and being fully present in the moment. This is usually done by focusing on a particular object or thing such as your breath. As little as 10 minutes a day can make a big difference in the long run. Inevitably, other thoughts will interrupt your focus and you might even get bored. Instead of resisting these distractions or trying to force them to stop coming up, accept them without judgement and gently avert your focus back to your breath.
As you get better at this, you can begin to make your tinnitus the focus during your daily mindfulness sessions. As you slowly build up doing this for just a few minutes a day with a relaxed, accepting mindset, you will gradually become increasingly habituated to your tinnitus.
Even just changing the way you think about your tinnitus can be a great way to start. If you picture it as this inner battle that you’re constantly fighting, it’s common to feel angry, sad or even hopeless towards it. But once you teach your mind to simply accept that it’s there (which MBT will help you to do over time), it won’t bug you as much!
As an overview, the British Tinnitus Association spent £675,000 on tinnitus research in 2015. If introduced properly, mindfulness is a cheap method of treatment that can be used anywhere and at any time. It gives you the freedom to take control of your own treatment and begin to enjoy a sense of peace!