I was recently listening to the Sam Harris podcast, when a very a listener asked a very interesting question:
“How do you meditate with tinnitus? Mine is driving me crazy.”
I don’t meditate as much as I should, but I do meditate weekly, so I asked our audiologist to comment on Sam Harris’s advice about tinnitus and mindful meditation.
She pointed out that most people know meditation can help tinnitus, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. In order for meditation to help anyone suffering from tinnitus, or any other issues for that matter, you first need to know how to meditate with tinnitus.
3 Tips to Meditate with Tinnitus
#1 Tinnitus is just a sound
This is difficult, because I don’t want to understate how terrible tinnitus can be. But when it comes to meditation, it’s not a problem in the sense that one can’t have equanimity around the sound; it is just a sound.
So whatever your tinnitus is, however loud it is, you can just surrender and listen to it. And if you notice the reaction to it getting kindled, whether it’s resistance or fear or annoyance you need to become mindful of that and let that dissipate.
Keep dropping back to merely being aware of it.
#2 Try meditating outside
If you find that your tinnitus is becoming a real focus and seems to be getting louder by virtue of you meditating rather than you just noticing it more, I would recommend that you add some ambient noise.
You can meditate outside where there are many other things to listen to.
If you happen to be in the city, or a place filled with industrial sounds and you’d rather listen to the ocean or a forest, here’s a couple videos you may like:
#3 Try meditating with music
If you’re anything like me, sounds do help mask tinnitus while meditating, but random sounds can actually be distracting. You don’t always know when a bird is going to chirp or when the wind is going to pick up and scrape a few leaves across the ground.
In this case, you may try to play some music.
It could be music without vocals or it could be music where the vocals are in another language. I wouldn’t use music where you’re actually aware of the meaning of the lyrics or processing that meaning.
Tinnitus can be a problem or a path
It can be a problem, but again sound (in general) shouldn’t be viewed as a distraction.
A commenter on r/Meditation (reddit) put it this way:
The popular book, The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday also mirrors this take on tinnitus, or any struggle.
Sounds can be a totally appropriate, in fact, and especially good object of meditation.