You’re an expert on tinnitus and mindfulness based approaches to healing. Let’s start by discussing the concept of mindfulness. Where does it come from? In general terms, what science supports the efficacy of mindfulness-based approaches to address any medical condition?

While the practice of mindfulness meditation has its origins in Buddhism dating back as far as 2500 years, meditation is actually a natural human capacity and can be found across many religions across many cultures throughout history. The practices taught in present-day mindfulness-based approaches to medical conditions and well-being as discussed below are of a secular nature and do not require any religious beliefs, practices, or lifestyle changes other than practicing daily mindfulness meditation.
I see mindfulness as the skill of keeping sensation, emotions, and thoughts in moment-to-moment awareness without clinging to the habitual (and often unfounded) judgments that our mind tends to create. An important principle of mindfulness is that sensations, thoughts, or feelings, be they perceived as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, are not actively ignored or avoided. Instead, there is a relaxation of efforts at control, a tolerance for whatever discomfort arises as a temporary and passing momentary experience, a purposeful maintaining of attention on the present, an allowing of feelings to be just as they are, while observing experience with openness, curiosity, and acceptance.
The practice of mindfulness trains the mind to be with whatever sensations, thoughts, and feelings arise without becoming too attached to whatever is perceived. Those of us working with people with sound sensitivities in our practice know that this is particularly relevant for the person experiencing bothersome tinnitus. The person with chronic bothersome tinnitus rarely experiences the unpleasant sensation of tinnitus in isolation. Almost always, the tinnitus sensation is wrapped tightly in a cascade of thoughts, judgments, memories, fears, emotions, sadness, regrets, beliefs, and feelings about past, present, and future experiences living with this chronic symptom. Tinnitus gets wrapped in a Gordian Knot of our mind’s own creation and all roads to habituation are blocked (habituation will be discussed in more depth later in this interview).
Bringing awareness to how we may, in fact, be helping to create our own suffering—our own Gordian Knot—is not an easy task. Much like going to the gym to build a muscle, a personal trainer can guide us, but ultimately we have to do the heavy lifting to reach desired results. However, with a mindfulness practice, we can train our minds, rewire old thinking habits, modify our behaviors and reactions, and ultimately, learn to live with tinnitus with greater ease.
The widespread acceptance of mindfulness in modern life as an approach to healing stems from clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness for a range of illnesses. It has been applied with success to a growing number of conditions including chronic pain, depression, anxiety, sleep difficulty, stress, fibromyalgia, disordered eating, chronic fatigue, psoriasis, symptoms associated with cancer, and the list goes on and on. Clinical trials suggest a positive shift in “whole-person health” with changes in relaxation, cognition, biology, and behavior. The focus of my work has been on making mindfulness accessible to the field of audiology to re-balance the brain for tinnitus, hyperacusis, and misophonia relief.

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