Meditation Could Help Alleviate Tinnitus

Meditation Could Help Alleviate Tinnitus

Tinnitus, the medical term for a ringing in the ears, is a condition with no known cure. There’s no question – chronic tinnitus can be frustrating. A persistent ringing in the ears can dominate your thoughts and detract from focus. While there isn’t a cure for tinnitus, there are tinnitus treatment options to manage the condition to help make it less prominent in your mind. Among possible solutions, many people are turning towards meditation techniques to provide relief for their tinnitus symptoms.

Recognizing Tinnitus

There are many factors that can contribute to tinnitus, and most involve some damage or restriction in the auditory system. Tinnitus is a malfunctioning of the auditory system, triggering the brain to hear sound where no sound exists. Often these sounds are tonal or ringing, but tinnitus can also take the form of other sorts of sounds such as buzzing and clicking noises.

If you have hearing loss, the occurrence of tinnitus may be especially distracting for you. While other, actual sounds may be muffled or softer, tinnitus noise can dominate your hearing by being the clearest and prominent sound. The best course of action once you’ve recognized it is to pursue treatment that can help you manage tinnitus.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation aspires to help you recognize and accept the subtle sensations of your body and mind. There are many online resources to help you get started with mindfulness meditation, to begin you will simply need a quiet space and a comfortable sitting position.

This meditation involves sitting still and silent and allowing the sensations of the body to come and go. This means not indulging the urge to scratch an itch or shift your seating as well as not allowing your mind to fixate on any single thought. For tinnitus sufferers, the urge to try to alleviate your tinnitus through movement or introducing other sounds may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t worry- over time this meditation can allow you to rest with your tinnitus, observing it for what it is and releasing stress your body carries from tinnitus.

While it is often recommended that you meditate with your eyes closed, many people with tinnitus suggest beginning with your eyes open. Visual observation can help downplay the dominance of tinnitus sound and make you more relaxed throughout the process. By passively observing the tinnitus sounds, even surrendering to them, your body is better able to combat their intrusiveness. Many people have found that mindfulness meditation, though initially challenging, changes the role tinnitus plays in their life and helps them better manage their hearing. Organizations, such as the British Tinnitus Foundation, have even developed mindfulness programs specifically built around tinnitus management.

Guided Meditation

Another form of meditation is guided meditation where the meditation session is led by verbal guidance and soothing sounds to help you pay attention to different aspects of your life and experience. Guided meditation can be used to help focus on a certain element or goal as well as directly reinforce new thought patterns and strategies.

Many people who cope with tinnitus find solace in using guided meditation to help redirect their thoughts and focus. Guided meditation can provide more cues and reminders to help you redirect your mind from fixating on intrusive sounds or disabling thought patterns. A guided meditation path can also help your body find rest and relaxation strategies that you can carry into everyday stressful situations. Using soothing sounds to accompany your meditation may provide the most comfortable path for you, similar to working with white noise patterns to neutralize the tinnitus.

Other Treatments

It usually takes some trial and error to learn what works best for your personal tinnitus. Meditation can help deconstruct stress and relax your mind, helping to make tinnitus more manageable. This may work by itself, or meditation may be one of multiple strategies you employ to cope with tinnitus.

Using a sound generator to reduce the tinnitus you focus on is one of the most popular tinnitus therapies. Many hearing aids can be equipped with personal tinnitus management therapies, including white noise sounds, simple harmonic tones and customizable sound palettes to create your own sound relief. Whatever course of action you pursue, with some trial and error you can find what helps you relieve tinnitus and helps you function every day.

Many cases of tinnitus are linked to hearing loss. To learn more and to schedule a consultation and hearing exam, contact us at Hearing Consultants today.

Is Your Mood Connected to Hearing Loss?

Is Your Mood Connected to Hearing Loss?

We’ve all experienced the warm, fuzzy feeling of a dopamine boost after working out, listening to a favorite song, taking a bite of dark chocolate or receiving a sweet message from a loved one. This neurotransmitter, used as a hormone in the body, can help to elevate your mood and counteract depression — but it may also help you hear better.

How is dopamine connected to our hearing?

We hear with our ears, but also with our brains, which is why dopamine–a neurotransmitter that our brain produces to help us stay focused and motivated–could potentially affect the way our hearing functions. Dopamine has already been shown to improve memory, but now there is evidence that this neurotransmitter is important to our hearing as well.

So how does hearing happen in the brain? The auditory nerve sends sound signals from the cochlea to the auditory center of the brain, where they are processed and become decipherable. But if this pathway becomes damaged, a person can develop sensorineural hearing loss, the most common type. Typically caused by aging and noise exposure, sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured, but it can be effectively treated with hearing aids and cochlear implants.

French researchers examined the link between the dopamine transporter, a protein that moves dopamine to nerve synapses, and the auditory nerve.  Their conclusion was that dopamine is in fact vital in maintaining the healthy functioning of the auditory nerve and the way it processes sound signals. The study was published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Hearing can be therapeutic

It is well known among hearing health professionals that untreated hearing loss can lead to an abundance of other health issues, including depression, isolation and reduced mobility. Conversely, treating hearing loss with hearing aids has been shown to improve people’s quality of life as they age and help to protect against these problems. The sense of hearing is also vital in slowing the progression of certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Music therapy has proven beneficial in treating patients with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia, because of its ability to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Dan Cohen, once a social worker, now devotes his time to his “Music and Memory” program, which emphasizes the strong connection between music and the mind.

In his short YouTube video, you can see “Henry”, an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who can hardly speak, come to life after listening to some music through a pair of headphones. Henry is able to talk and answer questions even after the headphones come off, and even sings some of his favorite tunes.

Auditory stimuli can also help to boost dopamine levels in young people, according to a Canadian study. A McGill University-based research team measured brain activity in eight 19-24-year olds, as they listened to the music they had chosen. According to PET and MRI scans performed on the participants, dopamine levels increased six to nine percent.

How to safeguard your hearing health–and boost your dopamine

1. Exercise. Getting active can naturally increase your dopamine levels, and cardio workouts have the added benefit of improving your circulation. Both of these things have been proven to have a beneficial effect on hearing health. So, take a brisk walk, hit the treadmill or go for a swim. Your body–and your ears–will thank you.

2. Eat healthy. Foods that are high in sugar, fat and caffeine can definitely give you an instant dopamine rush, but these unhealthy snacks may actually disrupt your body’s dopamine production process in the long run. In order to make dopamine, your body requires foods that are rich in tyrosine such as turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy and legumes. Foods full of potassium, such as bananas, are particularly beneficial to the ears.

3. Start meditating. Meditation is one of the most effective ways of reducing stress, and less stress means more dopamine. Living with hearing loss, whether your own a loved one’s, can be stressful, and meditation is a good way to bring focus and calm back into your life.

4. Listen to music (safely). Listening to music is a proven way to elevate your dopamine levels and improve your mood. This increased dopamine can, in theory, help to protect the neurons and synapses in the auditory processing center of your brain. But if you make listening to music a part of your daily life, remember to listen conscientiously. Protect your ears from long-term hearing damage by listening at a reasonable volume and taking short ‘listening breaks’ to let your ears rest.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

There is no reason to live with untreated hearing loss. If you have experienced changes in your hearing abilities, schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants today!

Closed-caption Phones Open Up Doors for People with Hearing Loss

Closed-caption Phones Open Up Doors for People with Hearing Loss

 

Hearing loss can detract from a person’s life in a myriad of little ways where gradual difficulties can accumulate into significant challenges. While hearing loss affects our overall health, our cognitive ability and even our earning power, the area people most poignantly feel hearing loss’ impact is through new problems communicating. Not being able to hear other people can lead to feelings of isolation and alienation and separate us from the people and activities we love the most. Hearing loss, if left unaddressed, can leave you feeling out of the loop and excluded from the conversation.

Fortunately, solutions exist to help people with hearing loss bridge those communication gaps. Hearing assistance can take the form of hearing aids or cochlear implants which help their users hear better everywhere they go. Specific assistive devices also exist to help the hearing-impaired stay safe and facilitate better communication. For example, instead of relying on sound-based alarms, a person with hearing loss may opt for a bed-shaker or vibrating alert that can help them wake up in the case of danger – or even just the start of a workday.

Improving the Phone

One major victory for disability rights was the passage of the ADA which, in part, codified the right for people with hearing and speech challenges to access appropriate telecommunications solutions. The ADA victory has helped make some assistive devices, like telephones adapted for the hearing impaired, widely available and often free-of-charge to qualified users.

Many states across the country have established programs to help people with hearing loss connect with assistive telephones, from try services and closed-captioned phones, to telephones that offer dramatically increased amplification. Just as people with hearing loss use diverse strategies to help them navigate the world around them, different telephone solutions accommodate different ways of hearing.

The Closed Caption Phone

Many people with hearing loss find using a standard telephone challenging. Vocal quality is often muffled and distorted through a telephone receiver. That’s where a live-captioned conversation can really improve access to talking with friends and loved ones.

Services like CapTel or CaptionCall make use of live captioners working in tandem with automatic speech-to-text translators to provide swift, accurate captioning for telephone calls. Using a landline telephone, captioning is delivered to a small screen attached to the phone which scrolls as the call progresses. A captioned call allows the phone user to engage in voice calls while keeping track of what is said via written text. Maintaining the vocal component of a phone call makes captioned phones more than simply texting. With the aid of a captioned phone it is possible to communicate with young children and doesn’t require the dexterity that texting does.

Each state has different programs available to help customers access captioned telephones. Here in Ohio, models of CapTel captioned telephones are made available to customers at a reduced cost and several counties are now helping people access close captioned phones free of charge.

Smarter All the Time

Better access to the phone doesn’t have to exclude the smart phone revolution. More modern hearing aids are incorporating device streaming into their impressive list of hearing aid features. New frontiers in sound streaming mean that audio from a smart phone and other compatible digital devices can be directly delivered to your Bluetooth enabled hearing aids for optimized listening – even your doorbell!

Hearing aids play a huge role in treating hearing loss effectively and alongside them, smart phones are making huge advances in becoming important assistive devices in their own right. Speech to text technology developed for hands-free note and memo taking is being developed into ever more accurate live-captioning software. The acceptance of texting has also let phone users with hearing loss stay connected to the people closest to them, alongside managing professional communication and correspondence.

Hearing Consultants

With so many options to choose from, you can’t let your hearing loss hold you back. From taking advantage of hearing aids with streaming audio to finding the right fit with an assistive phone, modern technology is helping people with hearing loss fully realize their telecommunications rights. If you have questions about your hearing, or devices and therapies that can help you manage your hearing challenges you know where to turn: Hearing Consultants. We proudly offer a full range of audiology services to the greater Cincinnati area.