One morning this past July I woke up with zero ability to hear with my right ear. The tinnitus is loud and varies between ringing and crackling or bubbling. I couldn’t say, from experience, that using it as a meditation object would make it worse, but it does seem that “training” my brain to dwell in my ears might make it more difficult to ignore the sounds when not meditating.
I tried it too. After meditating for about 1:15, I paid attention to the tinnitus for a minute or so then did this technique. Immediately I heard a very different sound than the usual tinnitus; somewhat louder and with a distinct pitch. Over the next minute or two, the new sound slowly faded away and the sound I’m accustomed to was still there but much less loud. I have no idea how long it lasted, but it was temporary.
I’ve not used tinnitus as a meditation object, I don’t see the need and I don’t want to open a new can of worms.
Just a caution - Clinical tinnitus may not be ‘the sound of silence’ to which people like Ajahn Sumedho refer. I think we need to be careful to differentiate, a light background noise that one may become aware of, from a disorder of tinnitus
I find this interesting. And helpful in that I suffer from fibromyalgia and its associated neuropathic pain. There’s lots of meditation advice around about focusing on pain when it arises and watching it dissolve. I have been apply this advice well to the sorts of pain that arise during prolonged cushion sitting, but the same techniques don’t seem to work well for fibro pain. I find that I experience less pain when I use strategies of distraction, both in daily life and in meditation (so I do a lot of metta meditation). Sometimes I do have a go at watching the pain, and am fairly convinced that this makes it worse both during and after the sit.
The knowledge that the meditative experience of focusing on migraine and on tinnitus can have similarly reinforcing effects is immensely helpful to me.
do you find it disappears when you go deep inside? Someone I know just developed it after taking some medication and is very anxious that it will interfere with their meditation.
Ummm… as a practicing ENT, I’d strongly recommend your friend get their hearing tested ASAP. It may just be due to temporary hyper activation of the nerve pathways, but it could also be an early indicator of serious damage to the cochlea or the nerve of hearing.
Disclaimer : This is not medical advice, just a friendly heads up!
First of all, I’d definitely suggest following @faujidoc1’s advice!
As to my experience, I’ve gotten so used to ignoring it that I have to deliberately direct my mind to it for it to arise in consciousness. And I see no good reason to do that, so I don’t.
no, it’s a side effect of the vaccine, it happened a few hours after the 2nd jab (not sure it’s appropriate to mention it here) according to Mayo Clinic (Dr Gregory Poland at the Mayo also has it) it’s an inflammation process and unclear whether it will heal (perhaps it will over six-twelve months). Not sure how much of a hindrance it will be to meditation
so you mean that both when you lay down to sleep, and when you meditate, you don’t notice it even if it’s there?
And the appropriate attitude would then be to ignore it? I was thinking also perhaps that if you welcome it and find beauty in it (as in Ajahn Brahm’s story of the anger eating monster) that might help calming it down. What do you think?
One needs indeed to make friends with it, or at the very least to ignore it (aka the Anger eating Demon!). Definitely not focus on it too much or get emotionally upset or involved in it. That is the core of the Jastreboff method of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, currently the treatment modality of choice worldwide. Here is the patient information handout. Oddly Buddhist!
Jastreboff Tinnitus retraining therapy.pdf (724.2 KB)
Disclaimer : Again, this is not intended as medical advice, just as general information. Please consult your own physician before embarking on any form of treatment or therapy. Meditation has side effects too! See the FAQ.
Absolutely agree with your point @Viveka, and Ajahn Sumedho does distinguish between the two in his book. I will say as someone who has tinnitus, in my personal experience it is a distinctly different sound than the “sound of silence”. I don’t use either as a meditation object per se, but I do pay attention to the circumstances under which the “sound of silence” is perceptible.
thank you so much. The pdf does look helpful. I see your point in consulting one’s physician even though it’s not very easy to have full confidence in him now (as he pushed for the vaccine to be taken even though the person in question was living as a hermit). Anyway, let’s hope the current negativity will pass and this will become Ajahn Tinnitus.
After some initial aversion and feeling sorry for myself, I realized I had to deal with it skillfully or I would suffer. Learning to not make a big deal of it and ignore it took some time, and it’s the strategy that worked for me. It’s really not any different from any other bodily ailment that you can’t get rid of: the more wisely you learn to live with it, the less suffering.
read the paper, indeed it’s very Buddhist. There seems to be CBT which also gives comparable results and ought to be quite related to this. Anyway, I think the key is to stop asap all thoughts like ‘why did I make that decision’ or worries about the future and start reinterpreting the noise along the path described here
For me, it boils down to the Buddha’s approach to anything, tinnitus and fibromyalgia included. It’s not so much the pain/discomfort itself that’s the problem, but my relationship to it. It’s the classic namarupa-vinnana model. With contact with the sense object, both hedonic feeling and perception arise, the how and what. As the focus of my attention dwells on the arising and reinforcing waves of contact, feeling, perception, attention and intention (of control whatever desires and pushing away are being generated), this gives all the content vinnana needs to keep the cycle going. If I can meditatively investigate what’s going on, move my effort away from the sense impression itself and on to the arising and ceasing feelings and perceptions, my attention shifts away from the sense impression and the cycle. I find there’s a slight difference between the faculty of my mind that observes and the consciousness that’s conditioned by the five aspects of namarupa. The observing mind sees with more dispassion the impermanence and conditioned self. The issue isn’t any longer the thing itself, but the greater picture of everything that I need to face in order to move away from the conditioned to the unconditioned.
For my own tinnitus, I’ve had success using the tinnitus sounds as a object for metta.
The metta is not healing the tinnitus though, it is healing the negative mental reaction to it. This is just a general strategy to deal with the suffering inherent in having a body. It’s yet another opportunity to respond to suffering with kindness and compassion
Nonetheless, tinnitus is not a completely uninteresting phenomenon. My experience is that the tinnitus sounds are neutral vedana. What I mean is that there’s no pain or pleasure in the sounds themselves.
With bodily pain, it can be hard to separate what is bodily pain and what is the negative mental reaction to it (the two darts).
With tinnitus, since the sounds are neutral, it’s IMO quite a bit easier to see that the painful aspect is the negative mental reaction (for me it was worry and fear about “what if I can’t sleep?”) and not the sound.
Another interesting aspect of tinnitus is that it is a phantom sound, i.e. it is a mind-made object coming from mind-contact, you can actually tell it is different from the sounds coming from ear-contact.
I mean, at least it’s kind of an interesting object, and not a chronic ear pain or other really painful condition which would be much harder to deal with
I resonate with your experience. Tinnitus doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, I find it oddly soothing, not pleasant but not unpleasant. Kind of a reminder that stuff just happens. I credit my Buddhist practice with preparing me to deal with something like this. I also think that I may not have as severe a case as others.
I like to think of it as a reminder that the physical body ( muscles, bone, organs etc), and the senses are deteriorating……and you don’t have to be “old” in age or get sick for that to to happen….
I have decided to share my experience here, as perhaps some of the good people on this forum might have experienced something similar and/or can provide some advice.
I developed something corresponding to the usual descriptions of tinnitus a few months ago after taking the vaccine. Then, after an acupuncture session, the noise in the ears transformed into a kind of internal hissing (not really in the ears, but inside my head), which I mainly hear when I become still and does not bother me much otherwise. I am not sure whether it can still be called tinnitus because it’s like a ‘muted’ sound inside my head.
However, even if it is hardly perceptible (if at all) when I am active, as I become still it becomes louder and louder. And, more importantly, if I focus my attention on it, it becomes so loud that it’s unbearable and scary and meditation becomes impossible.
So it seems that paying attention to it amplifies it enormously. I am saying this because some people above have mentioned making the sound their meditation object (and also some Dhamma friends I chatted to - one of whom also had tinnitus related to Covid for a few months), but for me it does not seem wise nor even possible since paying attention to it makes it so much louder that it fills my head.
I wonder whether anyone else has a similar experience to the one I described? And if they have any advice/suggestions?
I wouldn’t recommend paying any attention to it and I certainly wouldn’t use it as a meditation object. It’s important to not develop any attachment to it, particularly aversion.