Today we have a special guest on the blog. Lisa Caldwell has dedicated her career to helping people who suffer with their tinnitus, through a technique called Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice that has helped thousands of people cope with anxiety. Here, Lisa explains what Mindfulness can do for tinnitus patients when it is tailored for them...
Tinnitus, what tinnitus?
Using mindfulness helps us to notice our tinnitus less. If we do notice our tinnitus, the sound bothers us less. Tinnitus just becomes one part of our life, rather than dictating how we think, feel and behave.
I’ve lived with challenging tinnitus for almost two decades. I know how we can struggle to focus on anything else – whether that’s work, reading, TV or a conversation.
I tried a lot of ways to manage my tinnitus. The best thing I found to help me put my tinnitus back where it belongs, is a training called mindfulness.
Mindfulness improves our attention regulation. It trains us to choose where we pay attention – whether that’s to our tinnitus, or to something much more interesting.
Using a series of practical exercises we work on noticing when our attention has wandered from the task at hand and gently bring our focus back. In doing so we’re exercising, and developing, our “attention muscle.”.
We also become curious about where our attention has wandered. Do our thoughts and emotions take us off to whatever we think caused our tinnitus? Do they take us to a future filled with worries about coping with tinnitus? Whatever we discover, we start to recognise that neither of these directions is helpful, because we can do nothing to control the past or the future. The only time we have any influence over is the present moment – right now.
Research has shown that learning mindfulness can help us to cope with distressing tinnitus by:
Reducing our anxiety around tinnitus and loud sound
Improving our self-compassion
Increasing our ability to accept we have tinnitus
Decreasing our stress (whether caused by tinnitus or not)
Here’s the reality of how it helps me every day:
I can regulate where I pay attention. That means even though tinnitus might be doing the conga in my head I can choose to focus on my work, or on a book I’m reading.
I have learnt to be comfortable with the fact that the tinnitus I experience changes. It changes volume, sound, and intensity frequently. This used to make me very anxious. I’d panic, to be honest. What did it mean? What had I done? I learnt that the answer in both cases was “nothing”. Now, if I wake up and my tinnitus is more noticeable, I’m able to shrug my shoulders and say; “it is what it is”.
I have accepted that I will have tinnitus for the rest of my life. Of course, if there is a cure, I will be there in the queue. But I’m ok if that doesn’t happen in my lifetime.
I no longer see my tinnitus as a monster out to destroy my life, but as a bit of brain confusion.
I recognise that I can do very little to control my tinnitus. But what I can control is how I think about it and behave in relation to it. I can choose whether to worry about my potential quality of life over the next 40+ years. Or I can think about creating a great quality of life today.
If you’re interested in adding mindfulness to your tinnitus toolkit, take a look at the 1-2-1 mindfulness courses for people struggling with tinnitus at www.thehearingcoach.com
Lisa Caldwell developed tinnitus in 2005 when she lost the hearing in her right ear overnight. The hearing never returned, and the tinnitus never left. After trying anything and everything to get rid of her tinnitus, she found mindfulness was the key to living a great life, even with this condition. She became a Certified Mindfulness Meditation Teacher in 2018.