Meditating with Tinnitus


I have a medical condition called "TINNITUS' meaning ringing in the ears 24X7. How do I concentrate on meditation when I hear these ringing sounds in ears continuously.

—Sreedhar, India


Dear Sreedhar,

I’m sorry for what you’re going through. The good news is that many people have found a way to stay with meditation despite tinnitus. You can find stories on the internet by meditators who have found ways to deal with tinnitus. Those whom I know personally have simply found a way to accept fully the presence of tinnitus in their lives (and meditations), rather than fighting against it. For example, one told me:

The tinnitus sound is simply there, and I can decide to pay attention to it or not. It’s like if I were meditating (without tinnitus) in a noisy place: If I fight against the noise, then the noise becomes my focus. But if I accept the noise as an unavoidable reality, and focus on, say, the breath or a mantra instead, then it becomes possible to put tinnitus in the background. It’s the same with tinnitus. It simply takes practice to get to that place.

Another told me:

After living with tinnitus for many years, I am fortunately able to not give it my attention in daily life. I become aware of it at times, but it is definitely “old news,” and I get on with whatever I am doing, and no longer give it my attention. It really isn’t different in meditation. The sound is there, but I don’t give it my attention. By the way, I find it very unhelpful to wear noise-blocking headphones, which simply draw attention immediately to the tinnitus.

So a person needs to get to the point of acceptance, where the tinnitus is not capturing one’s attention in daily life (which I would think includes most people with tinnitus, just as a measure of psychological self-preservation).

It can be helpful to have a meditation practice that calls for a specific point of focus, as opposed to open monitoring of whatever comes to mind (which, for someone with tinnitus, would likely be the tinnitus). The Hong-Sau technique, as taught by Paramhansa Yogananda and therefore by Ananda, is such a focus-oriented technique.

I pray that you will find an aid that works for you, and that in time, you will be able to find a hidden blessing within the experience of tinnitus. Try to see the loving hand — and presence — of God in this situation, and not see it as unfairness or something that makes meditation impossible. It might even train you to direct your attention ever more fully, even in the midst of distractions, and that would be a huge benefit.

Nayaswami Gyandev