There are a number of tinnitus treatments which you can explore but if your tinnitus is making it difficult to focus, get on with your day to day life or feel like yourself then you might benefit from trying tinnitus mindfulness.
Fatema M Dawoodbhoy

Fatema M Dawoodbhoy

Medically Reviewed by
Content Writer | Medical Student
January 8, 2021

Tinnitus Mindfulness - Enjoy a Calmer Mind

There are a number of tinnitus treatments which you can explore but if your tinnitus is making it difficult to focus, get on with your day to day life or feel like yourself then you might benefit from trying mindfulness.

In this guide we'll go through everything you need to know about tinnitus mindfulness, including how using mindfulness for tinnitus relief can be effective, to how to meditate with tinnitus.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindful Nation UK defines mindfulness as

“a way of being in a wise and purposeful relationship with one’s experience… cultivated by systematically exercising one’s capacity for paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.

Mindfulness is built on 7 fundamental attitudes:

  • acceptance
  • non-judging
  • patience
  • letting-go
  • trust
  • beginner’s mind
  • non-striving.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that specifically teaches you how to pay particular attention to the experiences you are having in the present moment, without judgement. It has proven benefits for both mental and physical health.

Mindfulness' Roots

The roots of mindfulness can be traced back to Buddhism.

However, in the 21st century, mindfulness has been modernised and incorporated into daily practices for non-religious purposes as a form of self-therapy and can be very helpful when treating conditions such as tinnitus.

Buddhism - the root of mindfulness
Mindfulness began as a Buddhist practice

What is Habituation?

Although tinnitus can be extremely intrusive, with time people with tinnitus learn how to live with it.

Our brains learn to habituate: adjusting to the presence of the sound and eventually no longer responding to it. When this shift to acceptance occurs in the brain, you become less conscious of the noise.

Habituation to the tinnitus happens at different rates for everyone. There is no set timeline. Some people might struggle to make peace with their tinnitus and remain continually aware of it, which can cause great distress.

Two of the major obstacles to habituation are:

  1. worrying about the tinnitus
  2. fixating on the sound

Sometimes, the tinnitus is so severe that its intrusion means you can't get on with normal day to day activities.

Therefore, it's common, and very understandable, for people with tinnitus to feel resentful, frustrated and sad. There are various coping strategies and lifestyle changes you can make to manage tinnitus.

'Fighting' Tinnitus

However, it's also normal to try to 'fight' against it, feeling like that is the only option.

Trying to push tinnitus away, battling against it, actually makes it much harder to habituate to the sound, since it places the tinnitus as the negative centre of focus.

These negative thoughts can lead to anxiety, stress, and further physical conditions like headaches, muscle tension and insomnia.

This is where tinnitus mindfulness can help.  

Using Tinnitus Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a skill that you have to learn. Tinnitus mindfulness helps to teach you how to stop fighting against the tinnitus but rather, come to accept it as a part of life.

It encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and the environment around you, encouraging a gentle curiosity in the world as opposed to fixating, resenting or blaming circumstances.

Mindfulness encourages you to be 'present', to notice what's going on around you. It's normal to run through the tasks and events of the day on autopilot, not really aware of what is happening: externally or internally regarding your thoughts and feelings.

The aim of mindfulness is to come to understand what thoughts are informing your response to tinnitus, and to non-judgementally let them pass. In so doing, this can lead to a more positive relationship with your tinnitus.

Mindfulness therapy
Tinnitus Mindfulness helps you accept the sound

The more 'fine' you become with hearing your tinnitus, the less your brain will draw your attention to it.

Whilst research is continuing into the evidence behind tinnitus and mindfulness, many hearing therapists use elements of mindfulness to help their patients learn to manage tinnitus.

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Reducing the Intrusion of Tinnitus

There is no quick fix for tinnitus. Mindfulness does not aim to 'fix' the tinnitus. Instead, the aim to make it less and less intrusive day to day.

It will not change the tinnitus sound itself. Instead, it will change the way you respond to it so that it's not such a big problem to you as you come to accept it.

This can happen slowly but, with time and patience, it can happen.

There are different mindfulness techniques that can help. It might be that you find some useful during the day and others at night. Or that you're able to pick up some of the techniques quickly, whereas others take more time.

How to Meditate with Tinnitus

Eating Mindfully

It's normal to race through your day without really noticing what you're eating and drinking. Often eating is a social time, or a time to relax with television or music.

This technique is used to focus on the sensations you experience as you eat: to pay attention to a simple action that we normally take for granted.

This is a great reset tool to use in the middle of the day when you need to calm your mind or improve your focus.

  1. Breathe in slowly through your nose to 5 counts, you can close your eyes if it helps you to focus
  2. Breathe out gently through your mouth to 7 counts
  3. Open your eyes if they were shut and look at the food in front of you - what do you notice about how it looks? The colour, texture, size?
  4. Hold the food in your hand or on a fork - how does it feel? Heavy, light, smooth, rough?
  5. Now take a moment to smell it before eating it - what smells do you notice? How does you body react to the smell?
  6. Now put the food in your mouth and chew or suck slowly. What does it taste like? Sour, bitter, smooth, creamy? Can you describe it?
  7. Be aware of the sensation in your body as you swallow. Imagine it travelling down to your stomach.
  8. Finally take another slow breath in through your nose and release it through your mouth before you take another bite
  9. Well done!

Walking Mindfully

Walking is another activity we can take for granted. Mindfully walking is more than travelling from point A to point B.

This technique forces you to check in with your body and mind and gives you a chance to pay attention to the present moment, even as you go about your daily activities.

  1. Start by sitting down if possible.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose to 5 counts, you can close your eyes if it helps you to focus
  3. Breathe out gently through your mouth to 7 counts
  4. When you're ready stand up. Notice the weight transfer from your bottom to your feet. Feel how firmly your feet rest on the floor
  5. Now start walking. Notice the muscles in your legs and calves tighten to keep you moving
  6. Slowly continue to walk and become aware of the way that your weight shifts from one foot to another
  7. Now notice your arms and shoulders, do they swing as you walk?
  8. Notice your head as you walk, where is it moving and looking?
  9. Take a moment to pay attention to your jaw and neck. Are they tense or free?
  10. Come to a natural stop when you're ready and notice how you feel.
  11. Breathe in slowly and out gently to finish the exercise.
  12. Well done.

Using your Senses

This is a very simple way to teach your mind how to pay attention to the present moment, to lower stress and anxiety levels and help to take your mind away from any negative thought loops regarding tinnitus.

  1. Breathe in slowly through your nose to 5 counts. You can close your eyes if it helps you to focus
  2. Breathe out gently through your mouth to 7 counts
  3. Open your eyes and notice five things you can see around you e.g. a window, a wall colour, a cup. Take each thing in turn, working through them methodically and slowly. What do you notice? What colour, shape, texture, size is it?
  4. Now notice four things you can touch around you e.g. your hand, a computer, the wall. Work through each thing slowly. What do you notice about how it feels? Is it smooth or rough? Hard or soft? Hot or cold? How does touching it make you feel?
  5. Now choose three things you can hear around you e.g. a street outside, your breathing, someone talking nearby, music. One by one, what do you notice about what you hear? Is it enjoyable or unpleasant? Loud or quiet? Continuous or sporadic?
  6. Next select two things you can smell e.g. food nearby, a book, the air. Once you start trying to smell things you'll probably be surprised by how powerful this sense is. What do you notice? Is it a strong smell or subtle? Familiar or unfamiliar? Does the smell trigger any memories?
  7. Now choose one thing you can taste. It might just be the air, or something you can put in your mouth. What does it taste like? How does it feel on your tongue? Does the taste linger or does it pass? Does the taste change as you inspect it?
  8. Finally take another slow breath in for 5 counts and the breathe out for 7 counts.
  9. Well done.

Mindfulness for Tinnitus on the NHS 

Mindfulness is sometimes offered on the NHS as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

The standard treatment lasts 8-weeks and is generally led by a psychologist.

However, based on the severity and timeline of the tinnitus, you might be offered a varying amount of sessions.

Due to the increasing pressure of the NHS, you might find yourself waiting a long time before accessing MBCT.

However, with the Oto app you can now practice tinnitus mindfulness at home.

Digital Mindfulness

Apps are a fantastic way to begin practicing mindfulness. They make it easy to practice the techniques everyday, which is what will most help your brain adjust to the tinnitus.

Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm are all established apps with basic meditation and mindfulness courses as well as more specific packages for sleep.

However, Oto offers a solution that is specific to tinnitus and includes tinnitus mindfulness exercises which are specifically designed to help you habituate to the sound you perceive.

Join Oto

The Oto app offers expert guidance to reduce tinnitus intrusion through a variety of resources:

  • Mindfulness exercises such as breathing, visualisations, anchors, and meditation
  • CBT techniques
  • Sleep support including sleep stories, mindfulness for sleep, and sleep preparation
  • Physical therapy stretches to relax the neck, shoulders, back, jaw, and arms

Check out Oto's Tinnitus Support Group, a supportive community for individuals with tinnitus or related conditions to receive regular tips and tricks from the expert team at Oto!‍

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