Mindfully Tackling Tinnitus

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A growing body of research shows mindfulness–based strategies can reduce the stress that often accompanies tinnitus, and they may even increase your emotional well-being.

The Stress of Tinnitus – Many who experience tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, or whistling with no apparent sound source — find it insignificant. But for others, it’s downright debilitating and brings on headaches, anxiety, or even depression.

Someone with a stressful tinnitus response doesn’t simply hear a sound — they also experience tension, worry, and fear. One theory for this: The amygdala, a fear-determining region in your brain, misinterprets the tinnitus as a potential threat, keeping the body and mind in a state of constant vigilance.

The Benefits of Mindfulness – Mindfulness techniques can reduce your tinnitus stress response. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, developer of a mindfulness based stress-reduction program used in hospitals across the U.S., describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness is a skill you can develop over time. Mindfulness-based strategies work on two levels. Consciously, mindfulness loosens the grip of anxiety and fear caused by your tinnitus, so you no longer spend emotional energy trying to avoid it. On an unconscious level, mindfulness retrains your amygdala to see tinnitus as simply a sound, not a threat, so the fear and anxiety don’t get kick-started in the first place.

Options Abound – Popular ways to learn mindfulness techniques are:

  • University programs
  • Mindfulness-based stress-reduction programs
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Websites or smartphone apps

Power in Numbers – There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to minimize its effects, such as:

  • Sound therapy. A tone or pleasant sound masks your tinnitus.
  • Habituation. Sounds matching your tinnitus are played back to you — often at levels you can’t hear — to inhibit your tinnitus.
  • Hearing aids. Often, tinnitus is connected to hearing loss, so hearing aids can provide relief. Plus, many hearing aids now offer masking or habituation as well.

Combining mindfulness techniques with these other methods increases your ability to tackle tinnitus. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to Dr. Izzy & Staff at 732-818-3610 or visit gardenstatehearing.com

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Dr. Kirsh has over 25 years of hearing care experience. Dr. Kirsh received a B.A. in Biopsychology from the University of Maryland, a Master’s of Education (Audiology) from the University of Virginia and a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with area of specialization in Audiology from the Union Institute (The Graduate School). Dr. Kirsh completed a fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary, has multiple publications, and has received numerous continuing education awards from both ASHA and AAA. Dr. Kirsh is currently a Founder and Director for Audigy Group and has previously served on the Sonus Network advisory board. Dr. Kirsh’s wife, Shira Kirsh, is a Speech-Language Pathologist in private practice at Alliance Speech & Hearing Center (Howell, N.J., 732-942-7220)-an affiliate of GSHBC. Dr. Kirsh has two beautiful children, Melanie and Joseph.