A New York Times article “Living With a Sound You Can’t Turn Off’ by Jane E. Brody, December 3, 2012 made me think of Deanne and the Satyananda-based Yoga Nidras she has practiced over the years.
The constant loud humming in her ears drives Deanne to despair. Loud sounds leave her shaking for days. Deanne is in her 70s and she suffers from tinnitus, the subject of Jane Brody’s article and her affliction as well. Deanne though is in the 3 percent for whom this condition is debilitating. She fits the description in the paper given by Dr. Rilana F. F. Cima, a psychologist and researcher in the Netherlands:
“Patients say the sound is driving them crazy,” Dr. Cima said. “Their negative reaction to not wanting to hear it creates daily life impairment.” She said patients would do almost anything to avoid hearing the sound in their heads and the feelings of fear and anxiety that result.
Tinnitus is a chronic noise that seems to come from the person’s head. It’s intensity, pitch, and volume can vary. Some experience it as a constant ringing sound that is the most obvious when it is quiet and there are no other distractions.
There seems to be no cure. Deanne has tried hearing aids and masking devices that produce white noise. Even after repeated adjustments over an extended period of time, they really do not help. Reading this article was like listening to her story over the past few years. In the Times article, Dr. Cima says that when patients respond poorly to the masking device, they are often told they haven’t used it long or consistently enough.
Now Dr. Cima and her Dutch team have successfully developed and tested a three-month treatment “based on cognitive behavioral therapy and relies on principles of exposure therapy long proven effective to treat phobias.” The team enrolled 492 patients with varying degrees of tinnitus. Here is a short description:
The Dutch treatment relies solely on psychological techniques. Following an education session about tinnitus and lessons in deep relaxation, patients are gradually exposed to an external source of the very ringing they hear in their heads. After 10 or 12 sessions, they become habituated to it and no longer find it threatening.
This is also how Satyananda-based Yoga Nidra works–I do not know Dr. Cima’s specific treatment that can be replicated and was published in The Lancet (a British medical journal) last Spring. The abstract does not give any details of the program. This particular type of Yoga Nidra may also be seen as a very effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy. Deanne has been practicing Yoga Nidra for several years and it is this guided meditation that gives her any sense of relief and peace from the constant noise. During the practice, she is not aware of the sounds in her head and they do not elicit strong negative reactions. The stress and physical tension that accompany the fear (due to lack of sleep) and anxiety regarding the noise also melt away. However, the Yoga Nidra we practice in the senior class is not specific to tinnitus and the calming effect wears out for Deanne whose condition is more complex because of multiple health issues. Playing soft music in the background helps her as well. Deanne still has to avoid loud construction noise, vacuum cleaners, and jazz concerts, but at least there is something she can turn to for some sense of quiet peace, a quiet she craves.
For anyone curious about Satyananda-based Yoga Nidras, www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation has free audio tracks.