The damage from hearing loss can take a toll on your ears and your sanity when you have tinnitus – the constant ringing in your ears that doesn’t seem ever to stop. Some who suffer from tinnitus hear it so continuously that they have an intimate understanding of the tones, hertz, and fluctuations that make up its compellation. And when it’s never quiet, sleep is elusive. So, how can you fall asleep with tinnitus? One way is with meditation.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the awareness of sound when no external source is present. Commonly considered a ringing sensation, tinnitus can be perceived as a hissing, buzzing, chirping, clicking, and even in some cases, music. For some, tinnitus is a temporary occurrence, but for nearly 50 million Americans, it’s a chronic, debilitating issue.
The source of tinnitus, and also a potential cure, has evaded scientists for many years. However, current research has found why some individuals are more susceptible to tinnitus than others – the limbic system.
The limbic system is a network of neural systems involved in the unconscious regulation of emotions, behaviors, and long-term memory. Your limbic system monitors all incoming information and determines whether a thought, sense, or action is safe or a potential threat. When some incoming signal is deemed “concerning,” it reaches your conscious awareness so you can actively control or act on it.
When it comes to tinnitus, the limbic system is the gatekeeper to whether you are consciously or unconsciously aware of it. For those with tinnitus, your brain believes the sound is dangerous and should be monitored – i.e., heard ALL THE TIME.
For those who suffer from tinnitus, a constant sound feels like there is no relief for – sleep does not come naturally. Especially after a long stressful day, tinnitus can seem to be the loudest as the day comes to an end and nighttime silence begins. Which is why you should consider mediation to fall asleep.
Why Doesn’t the Ringing Stop?
Eventually, those who suffer from tinnitus habituate to it. Habituation is the natural process where your brain adjusts to stimulus and no longer responds to it. Habituation does not happen at the same rate for everyone. And for those who worry or focus their attention on their tinnitus, get there slower.
When tinnitus begins, it’s natural to worry what it may mean or if it will ever go away. And if you become so bothered by your tinnitus that it interferes with the way you wish to live your life, you indeed become more focused on the noise and also begin to manipulate your world to push it away.
You may begin to avoid quiet places because your tinnitus is more evident while also avoiding noisy environments for fear it’ll worsen. You may try to keep yourself incredibly busying to stay distracted from it but may turn to substances to reduce the disturbance when you finally have to unwind. Without the right support, it feels like a constant, never-ending fight.
Hearing Aids for Tinnitus
One method to find tinnitus relief and foster habituation is with amplification and sound generators. However, it isn’t just about masking or covering the tinnitus, but strategically using sound to minimize the annoyance while still perceiving your tinnitus. This allows the limbic system to lessen its hypervigilance over your tinnitus and naturally encourages habituation. But I stress working with a hearing care professional, as the misuse of amplification or amplifiers and sound generators can worsen your tinnitus.
Amplification and sound generators are an excellent step towards fostering habituation. However, these alone aren’t enough to tackle your overstimulated limbic system. This is where meditation comes into play.
Why Meditation is Important
Meditation is the practice of being mindful of the current moment. To be still in the present, fully aware of whatever you are feeling, thinking, or doing without distraction nor judgment. Developing the ability to be mindful through meditation has a positive effect on many health conditions.
Meditation is becoming a household term and is an easy enough concept to understand. When we don’t like something, especially something chronic in our lives, we tend to want to turn away from it, block it, or bury it. Or, we become submerged in it, downing in the concept without knowing how to get out.
Mindfulness, developed through meditation, not only helps you see your habits but helps you turn towards the difficulty. You can discover what parts of your distress are due to the issue or your resistance to the unwanted.
And with meditation, there is no right or wrong way to practice. Everyone does it differently, with over 30 different styles of meditation!
How to Use Meditation to Fall Sleep with Tinnitus?
The goal of meditation and mindfulness is not to make tinnitus go away but to make it less intrusive on your life- to live with it, not against it. Meditation can help you begin to associate the sound of your tinnitus with calm and relaxation instead of stress and anxiety. And when your relationship with tinnitus changes, it aids the habituation process.
Meditation is an excellent tool to combat the anxiety that tinnitus may cause and can be incredibly helpful to fall asleep. When wondering how to use meditation to fall asleep, I would start with these tips:
- Lie down comfortably in your bed and gently close your eyes.
- Begin to breathe slowly, inhaling and exhaling deeply. Focus on your breathing until it fills your awareness.
- If thought begins to distract you, return to your breath instead of to engage with it.
- As you begin trying to use meditation to fall asleep, be patient. Meditation is a practice that takes time to understand. Start with smaller amounts, gradually increased the time as you become more comfortable with it.
- Use guided meditations on apps, podcasts, or streaming services like Spotify to get your started.
How to Stop Ringing in Ear
When the ringing in your ears is constant, you’re desperate to find a solution. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for tinnitus – because the source is a learned unconscious behavior within your brain. It takes time to teach your limbic system otherwise and habituate to your tinnitus.
Working with a professional is the first step to addressing your tinnitus because there is no one cause of tinnitus, nor one solution that works for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about meditation for tinnitus or would like more information on managing your tinnitus better, reach out to Dr. Gutzmer of Wholistic Hearing Care at (630) 474-5008.