Tinnitus is a ringing in the ears without an external sound source. It has many causes such as very loud noises, or some drugs or a head impact. Those types of tinnitus cannot be heard by an outside person but sometimes a muscle twitch or infection-caused bubbles bursting can be heard by another person.

Sometimes I have a mild tinnitus after visiting my very loud coffee shop. People talking loudly shouldn’t cause tinnitus but in that particular shop with very hard sound-reflective walls the noise level of fifty people shouting can become extreme. Also, after sitting beside my computer with its constant fan humming combined with the refrigerator running nearby, I will get some noticeable tinnitus for a while. Also, when going to bed at night, especially after the above noisy events I will have a problem for a while.

My past response to these problems has been to put small rolled up wads of soft paper napkins into my ears when about to encounter these noises and I also do that when riding the local train called BART. That cuts down the squeaky noises quite a lot without dropping the volume of the spoken frequencies too much and in those environments I can actually hear people better than without the ear plugs. I don’t like the commercial foamed plastic ear plugs for several reasons. They cause pain after wearing them for a while and they mute voice sounds as well as squeaks and they are usually orange or some other ugly and offensive color. The dark tan soft napkin tissues are less noticeable and work better.

Those are techniques for cutting down on exposure to tinnitus-causing noise but I have experimented with training my ears to reject the tinnitus sound. The idea is to train the subconscious self to tune out the source of the tinnitus sound by bringing that particular sound under voluntary control. Once your brain realizes that you can turn that sensation on and off voluntarily it can learn to distinguish when the sound is external and real and when it is being created by some internal process and is a mental construct.

To get this process under your control you must personally make and control the sound source. Someone else making the sound probably won’t work or won’t work as well as your doing it voluntarily yourself.

Hissing tinnitus simulation

Charles Scamahorn hissing into his cupped hands to simulate tinnitus.

It is easy to make audible hissing sounds with your mouth and by cupping your hands as in the illustration above you can direct the sound back into your ears. Make the hissing or whistling sound which is as similar as possible to the one your tinnitus makes. Do this for half a minute while moving your hands closer and touching your face and then back to the position seen above.  Also, you can rotate your hands to direct the sound more into one ear and then the other. An alternative position is to cup your hands over your ears with open palms near your mouth which directs the sound more directly into the ears. You can do either of these positions while reading on your computer.

The goal is to convince your unconscious self that you are in total control of those particular types of sounds. Your inner zombie isn’t particularly intelligent but it can learn with repeated exposure to an event. This procedure is training your responses just like Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate when hearing a bell. There must be quite a few exposures to the noise to learn these types of stimulus response things. Probably at least twenty times for half a minute separated by an hour or more. You could schedule these zombie training sessions by doing them every time you went into the bathroom. That way you would do them privately several times per day, away from other people and their queries about your strange habit. It would make sense to put a Post-it ® notes on your computer and bathroom mirror as a reminder to do these brief exercises.

May peace and quite be upon you, my friend.