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Tinnitus is the experience of hearing a distracting sound in one or both ears. This sound is most often described as a ringing, buzzing, or clicking like noise that can be mild to profound. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, at least 10% of people in the U.S. consistently experience tinnitus and 16 million people seek medical attention for it. Tinnitus can disrupt daily life by impacting sleep, making it challenging to focus and complete tasks, affecting hearing etc. One useful way to manage tinnitus and alleviate its impact is through meditation.
Tinnitus: Causes & Impact
People can experience mild to severe tinnitus which can be intermittent or chronic. Tinnitus is most often an underlying symptom of a health condition. Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing Loss: the most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition that older adults navigate. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss can be caused by several factors including loud noise, existing medical conditions, genetic history, aging, and head injuries.
- Environmental Exposure to Loud Noise: one time or consistent exposure to loud noise can cause tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Sound is measured in units referred to as decibels and noise above 85dB (equivalent of busy city traffic) can be harmful to hearing health. Loud noise can damage the tiny hair cells that are in the inner ear. These cells help convert soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to be further processed. The most common sources of loud noise exposure include the work environment, listening to audio on electronic devices, and social settings.
- Earwax Buildup: earwax can accumulate in the ear canal which increases the presence of bacteria in the ear. This can cause irritation and/or infection; leading to tinnitus.
- Head Injuries: most commonly caused by falls, car or bike accidents, and being struck by an object. This extreme force to the head can cause swelling, bruising, hemorrhaging which can damage parts that are integral to the hearing process – ear canal, ear drum, auditory cortex etc.
- Medical Conditions & Medications: including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes as well as medications like specific types of antibiotics, antidepressants, and aspirin can cause tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be activated by a range of factors which can take time to identify. It can be experienced severely which takes a toll on daily life by causing:
- Lack of sleep and leading to sleep disorders (insomnia, sleep apnea)
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, increased irritability
This can significantly contribute to stress which then triggers tinnitus. This cycle impacts mental and physical health as well as daily well-being. Fortunately, there are useful ways to manage tinnitus and reduce its impact.
Meditation & Tinnitus
One useful way to alleviate tinnitus is to develop a meditation practice. Meditation is grounded in breathing slowly, calming the mind, and relaxing the body. Focusing on breath, and breathing only, means allowing thoughts to come and pass. Remaining aware of your body and breathing helps create calm energy which provides relaxation. This strategy is useful for processing stress and moving through it in easier ways. Stress is a key activator of tinnitus and focusing on the ringing sound can exacerbate both the tinnitus and stress. Meditation helps ease stress by calming the mind and body which can then alleviate tinnitus. This may be difficult to do at first because the quietness can seemingly intensify the buzzing/ringing noise. These challenges are completely normal and to be expected in the beginning. But consistently trying and actively practicing meditation – which takes time and patience – helps to train yourself to stop focusing on the tinnitus but rather breathing.
In addition to practicing meditation and reducing stress, there are a few other tips you can integrate to alleviate tinnitus:
- White noise machine: creating ambient noise can help mask tinnitus, focusing on it less which reduces its presence and impact.
- Quality sleep: create a sleep routine to enhance the quality of sleep you are receiving. This can include taking a warm shower before bed, adjusting the lighting, getting comfortable bedding, going to sleep at the same time etc.
- Increase physical activity: this can reduce stress, provide more energy, enhance mood etc. which alleviates tinnitus.
If you are experiencing issues with tinnitus, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive hearing health services.