Document Type


Date Created



Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external source. It is also known as “ringing in the ears.” Those who experience the effects of bothersome tinnitus may suffer from a multitude of symptoms that may include depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sleep disturbances, anger, etc. Bothersome tinnitus has further been compared to chronic pain (both are phantom symptoms and occur from reorganization of the central nervous system). With a multitude of symptoms, management of tinnitus may be difficult. For this reason, a whole-health approach using a multidisciplinary team may be warranted. An audiologist may be able to help a patient with bothersome tinnitus by evaluating the health of the auditory and/or balance systems to recommend an appropriate management option. It is recommended by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) that an audiologist provide tinnitus counseling, fit and adjust hearing aids, if needed, and/or recommend the use of a sound machine (Tunkel et al., 2014). For some patients with bothersome tinnitus, these strategies may be enough to provide relief from the tinnitus; however, for others these management options may not be sufficient and thus finding another option to manage the effects of tinnitus will be vital to their quality of life. The research literature addresses many management options for tinnitus. One emerging approach to managing the effects of tinnitus is mindfulness. Mindfulness focuses on creating awareness in the present moment with acknowledgment of thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness refocuses the individual’s awareness back to the present moment through the shifting of attention so that negative thoughts will become less emotionally destructive. The review of literature in this area suggests that a mindfulness approach to tinnitus may be beneficial to those who suffer from associated depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and chronic pain.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness course that is typically presented as an eight-week program. Preliminary results with the use of an MBSR course focused on tinnitus have shown a reduction in negative emotion, irritability, and rumination as well as decrease in tinnitus distress, psychological distress, and tinnitus awareness, and improvements in tinnitus acceptance. For sustained benefit, daily mindfulness practice is encouraged. While evidence for the use of mindfulness as a management option for tinnitus is not as strong as that for other management options, preliminary evidence is promising, and an audiologist may recommend the use of mindfulness as an adjunct to other evidence-based management options for tinnitus. Mindfulness may one day prove to be a tool that audiologists could recommend as the sole management option for a patient with tinnitus. Audiologists are encouraged to better understand the role mindfulness may play in patient care, now and in the future.