Tops Tips- Mindfulness & Tinnitus

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(I thank my regular blog followers for allowing me to go slightly off message for a worthy cause. Next week is Tinnitus Awareness Week in the UK and USA. Information can be found here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/taw2017 )

I can’t remember exactly when I started hearing the continuous ringing in my ears. I do remember the exact moment I realised that I had some hearing loss. At the time, it was upsetting but not life altering. I realised that, in one ear, I could not hear high tones. I think back now and realise that was the last time I actually couldn’t “hear” anything all the time! The constant ringing began shortly after that. First, in only one ear, and then in the other. I was in my 20’s. I coped, I believe, during those early years because the noise was low in volume. Then while pregnant in my 30’s, the volume kicked up to decibels that I find hard to explain even now. I knew what I had before I even went to the doctor. But, after numerous tests, it was confirmed. I had Tinnitus with hearing loss in both ears.

What is Tinnitus?

The British Tinnitus Association says,

” The word ‘tinnitus’ comes from the Latin word for ‘ringing’ and is the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound.
It is not a disease or illness; it is a symptom generated within the auditory system.
The noise may be in one or both ears, or in the head, or it may be difficult to pinpoint its exact location. The noise may be low, medium or high pitched. There may be a single noise or two or more components. The noise may be continuous or it may come and go.”

My Tinnitus is a constant high pitched tinny ringing in both ears. The volume can fluctuate from high pitch to excruciatingly high pitch and at times have a sing song quality to it. The more I think about it, the worse it gets. My hearing is greatly effected and, at times, people think I am ignoring them or not paying attention to them when I have to ask them to repeat what they said. I need people to look at me when when speaking and I find crowded, loud venues very upsetting and annoying as I can not process all the sounds and participate fully. I prefer to always have a fan, music or the tv in the background to generate noise to help mask the ringing. Sometimes, the ringing is so loud it wakes me up when I am sleeping. It is NEVER quiet.

I knew before I received my diagnosis that there is no known cure. However, I was so desperate, I had hoped the doctors would give me some advice and support. To be honest, I found the support very lacking. Due to the hearing loss, they fitted me with hearing aides. They did make the sounds I could hear louder. However, I found that the echoey amplified sound also amplified the ringing over time! The other advice I received, was that I would just “have to learn to live with it”. “How?”, I asked. They just shrugged their shoulders.

While exploring natural ways to combat work stress, I found mindfulness. My research and education in learning to use mindfulness in everyday life to deal with stress had an added benefit. I quickly realised that following my 10 minute morning guided meditations, my Tinnitus became less noticeable. This had me wondering and trying out different ways of meditation and which ones were most effective in the aspect of my Tinnitus.

I found the following:

1- Silent meditations without music or background noises had little effect on the Tinnitus. As a matter of fact, the meditation was completely ineffective for the purpose of stress relief and, in some cases, made my stress worse because I had a hard time not focusing on the ringing and it becoming LOUDER!

2- Meditations first thing in the morning had a greater impact than later in the day.

3- Meditations that had a focus on other things and not on the Tinnitus were better for me. So, bespoke meditations focused on Tinnitus were not effective. I actually focused more on the ringing!

4- If, during the day, the volume was becoming more noticeable (and it usually could be associated with rising stress levels in other parts of my life), if I gave myself a mindful moment, it could calm the sound.

So, I have come up with two top tips for dealing with Tinnitus mindfully.

Top Tips:

1- Listen to a guided meditation 10 minutes a day first thing in the morning. Ensure there is music or nature sounds in the background to allow yourself to focus. Some good guided meditations are:

10 minutes of Peace, Calm and Tranquility: https://youtu.be/HVWkp1Nu6o8
Guided Meditation for Peace and Contentment: https://youtu.be/eDQxQ8dhfug
Guided Visualisation Meditation- Ocean Escape: https://youtu.be/ar_W4jSzOlM
Floating on Ocean Meditation: https://youtu.be/7DSXtxrIdmY
More can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL76Tcrfnqwv6uL9BQUdRjbJse6scuYaLy

2- Allow yourself mindful moments in the day to allow yourself to take control of your stress before your react to the stress. Some quick and simple mindful moments are:

Shoulder Relaxation– Take deep mindful breaths. Inhale for five counts, pause for a count of one and then exhale for a count of eight, on the exhale, focus on allowing your shoulders to relax and drop away from your ears. Allow yourself to make noise as you are inhaling and exhaling allowing you to focus on that sound and the feel of your shoulders.

Hand Washing Meditation– When we wash our hands in warm water, it opens the blood vessels and tricks your brain out of a stressful state.
– When you go to wash your hands, be mindful of the sensation of the water and soap as your rub your palms, between your fingers and on top of your hands. Breath deeply allowing your breathing enhance the feel of water and soap.
– How does this moment feel?
– How is it making the rest of your body feel?

Water Meditation– – Pour yourself a glass of plain water. (It can have ice.)
– Sit down with your water and allow yourself to be aware of drinking the water.
– Take a sip. Allow the sip to linger in the mouth. Notice the temperature of the liquid against your tongue, cheeks, gums and palate. What can you taste? Is there a sweetness, bitterness, acidic or even slightly salty taste?
– Notice the sensations of the water being swallowed and flowing down your throat and into your stomach.
– Continue to be mindful of each sip; allowing yourself to be in the very present moment of drinking your water.

Will this work for you? Maybe? It is worth a try!

Mindfulness will not stop the ringing. However, it does help you to redirect focus and put less emphasis on the constant sounds in your head.

Join me in brining awareness to Tinnitus and share in conjunction with #TAW2017.

In addition to this blog, follow me on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince and Facebook at www.facebook.com/educationsvoice for more tips, ideas and strategies for Mindfulness in the classroom and for adults.

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