Are You Suffering From Tinnitus?
If so, you really have my sympathy. Tinnitus is a distressing condition for an estimated 10% of the world's population including the UK and 50 million people in the USA. The medical profession have many theories as to the cause, but few concrete answers or effective treatments. More often than not, sufferers are sent away and just told to learn to live with it.
There is however a possible answer to the mystery of tinnitus. It may well be that you do not have tinnitus at all - instead you could be on the way to spiritual enlightenment!
To discover the answer to this mystery sound we need to look back to our founding fathers, the rishis, who were enlightened sages of their time. They wrote about the mysteries of the universe, religion and the evolution of man in ancient texts such as the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
The rishis referred to the primordial sound of the universe as OM or AUM - a representation of Creation or God.
OM is more well known in the West as a favoured tattoo chosen by celebrities or as being chanted in a yoga class. OM can actually be heard without chanting or practising yoga.
In Sanskrit this sound is also referred to as Anahada Nada. Literally this means "sound produced without striking." It is an internal sound and an external sound not caused by a specific event or person. Zen Buddhists refer to it as the one handed clap. If a meditator hears this sound then they are viewed as fortunate and spiritually advanced.
OM has three constituents: Sound, Vibration and Light. A few of us can perceive some or all of these "inner" qualities. I have experienced them. Quite a shock for an unimaginative, down to earth entrepreneur who believes in hard facts over fiction.
Paramahamsa Prajnanananda Giri, one of India's most respected gurus and previously a professor of economics, explains the OM sound as follows:
"The OM sound is constant within and around us and perceived by sincere meditators and even individuals who have never meditated before. For the latter, unfamiliarity with this sound can lead to anxiety and misdiagnosis.
Some people including myself can hear this inner sound constantly. There are 50 sounds deriving from OM. Those who hear OM, will normally hear one sound in particular. Meditation can help us to learn to listen to this sound so that it becomes comforting inner music rather than an unpleasant irritation".
Symptoms of Tinnitus and The Sound of OM
People who hear OM and suffer from tinnitus often share the same experiences:
1) The sound may have just happened overnight or through an injury or a stressful event. It may stay for a while, remain or never come back.
2) It can change and become louder or softer at any moment. It is often perceived as a high pitched whistling sound, an ocean sound, a flute sound, a humming, buzzing or hissing sound.
3) The volume can increase when in a quiet place or with stress or anger. It can become so loud it is hard to speak.
4) The sound can move from ear to ear or be apparent in both ears or just one. It can continue 24/7 or become less apparent when concentrating on another activity.
More often than not, 2+2 does equal 4, so perhaps you are hearing OM after all. As the above similarities show, it is easy to confuse tinnitus with the OM sound.
This is confirmed by Dr O Adams in Colorado, who has personal experience of the OM sound and tinnitus. He has worked with tinnitus patients for the past 7 years. He states that "I am sure there have been diagnosed cases of tinnitus that were actually direct perception of the OM sound."
Meanwhile Dr N Seshadri, a cardiologist in Florida, questioned whether he had tinnitus. He comments "I didn't have hearing problems, and after a lot of self study and meditation, am convinced this phenomenon is not tinnitus. It seems to be a sound coming from deep within the right side of my brain. It sounds like buzzing bees but I have also heard a flute sound."
How Can "Inner Sound" Meditation Help?
If you are in fact hearing OM, then "inner sound" meditation can help you to control your attention on the sound and to be more relaxed. Meanwhile, if you do have tinnitus, hopefully "inner sound" meditation can bring some inner peace.
I described how to meditate in my last blog, How to Change Your Life in 15 Minutes. It may help tinnitus sufferers to read that blog in conjunction with the technique shown below:
Go to a quite place, sit straight and close your eyes. Observe the breath gently. Breathe in and out of the nose and not the mouth. You will be focussing one by one on the six main chakras down the front of the body:
Start by concentrating in the centre of the forehead, a few inches inside.
Focus on the breath there and listen to the sound. Be relaxed. Ignore your thoughts.
Witness the sound in a detached way. Instead of viewing it as an irritant, be immersed in the sound at each chakra as if you are listening to music, which at first may be an acquired taste.
After some time, follow this same practice of focussing on the breath and the sound in the remaining five main chakras.
Remember, hearing OM is a sign of spiritual evolution and is purifying, so you may well be an advanced yogi without even knowing it!
Persevere by making meditation part of your daily routine for at least 15 minutes every day. You may discover that the sound changes in different chakras or the volume changes especially in the throat area.
These are positive signs that you are hearing OM. You will also then learn how to pay more or less attention to it during the day. If you cannot sleep, when lying down meditate as described above.
In general, as you become more in tune with the sound, it will stay in the background when carrying out your daily duties. If it becomes loud of its own accord, often at a time of stress, then meditate for a few minutes and go back to the task at hand. Defocus your thoughts away from the sound by discussing or thinking about day to day matters.
It really is possible with practice to make the inner sound secondary. Take the example of a loud ticking clock. Some of us hear it all of the time and find it annoying and others of us don't hear it at all unless we put our attention on it.
In conclusion, as more scientists and doctors meditate, perhaps they will learn more about this universal sound. Science has an important role to play but sometimes only meditation can bring the hidden answers of the universe through inner experience.
David Green is an experienced meditator and Kriya Yoga practitioner. In The Invisible Hand, he describes how the application of yogic principles regarding meditation, diet and wellbeing helped to change his life to bring more success, peace and happiness.