Technique 7: Audiovisualisation Technique
People with tinnitus are often given a masker to generate noise in their ears, which distracts them from their tinnitus. As they focus less and less on it, they become much more likely to let go of symptoms. Here I am offering a technique that can help you create an alternative to a masker using one of the most powerful tools you have – your imagination.
It’s easy to close our eyes and picture the face of someone we love, or remember a beautiful beach or view across the mountains. We can also remember sounds easily, and this technique develops this skill into an interesting tool for managing tinnitus.
If you practice this audiovisualisation a few times, you will find that your ability to focus on imagined sound will get clearer and clearer. The more your mind becomes focussed, the more choice you have with what you experience. With practice you can learn to hear a waterfall all around you while you are travelling on the Underground! More importantly, you can learn to hear a pleasant sound in your imagination that is much more agreeable than just sitting there with tinnitus, if its still around.
You will need 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to yourself for this exercise. Sit comfortably somewhere reasonably quiet where you won’t be disturbed. Read this slowly, and as you go along really allow your imagination to ignite and become vivid and colourful.
Get comfortable and take a couple of deep breaths. Clench and relax each part of your body working from your feet up to your face to help your mind settle and become more focused.
Imagine you are standing next to a small waterfall in a forest. Notice what it looks like. What colour is it? Is it in the shade or is the sun shining on it? Walk up closer to it and feel the cool dampness against your face and smell the earthy moss filling the air.
Hear how the water is trickling down between the rocks. Stop for a moment and really listen to this in your imagination. In places you can hear it dripping. Hear each drip dropping down into a pool of water. In other places you can hear it gushing more constantly and spattering against the rocks. You may need to close your eyes for a few seconds to really allow this to form in your mind.
Get closer and hear it through your left ear. Imagine the sound coming in through your left hand side as if the waterfall was pouring down just to the left of the chair where you are sitting. Then, slowly imagine you can move the waterfall behind you and hearing it behind your neck and back. You could almost shiver at the thought of cold water running down your back. Then slowly continue to move the waterfall so you can hear it to the right of your chair. Take your time with this and enjoy all the qualities of running water and how it sounds around you. Close your eyes and give this a try just now. Is it easier to imagine the sound on one side more than the other?
In another part of the fall you notice the water is gushing at quite a rate. Notice how it is spattering noisily onto a large rock at the bottom. The noise is uneven and sometimes quickens with a rush of more water, and sometimes slows down and sounds quieter.
Bring the waterfall round to the front of you. Get ready to turn it into a raging torrent. Notice that it has started to rain. You can hear it falling in the forest all around, pattering on the ground. Suddenly there is a clap of thunder and the sky darkens. The rain steadily gets heavier and heavier until it is spattering against the leaves of the trees, and pounding the ground everywhere. Let it turn into a tropical downpour of heavy, fat raindrops, lashing the trees and the sploshing into puddles all around. Can you still hear the waterfall? The noise is so loud now that if you needed to talk to someone you would have to shout.
The water is now tumbling and crashing down the fall. Hear that deep pounding sound as the wall of water plunges into the pool sending a foaming mass of bubbling water and spray in all directions. Feel the cool spray flying in your face and enjoy the invigorating feeling. Another clap of thunder and now the rain is lashing every square inch of forest. You can’t see more than ten yards ahead through the thick spray everywhere. The falls are crashing down in front. It is so loud that you can feel your chest booming with the pounding of the water against the rocks.
Slowly allow the darkness to lift, and the sky brightens and slowly the rain starts to calm down. The falls are still raging but the sound of the rain has gone. A ray of sunshine comes through and you are left with just the sound of water cascading into deep pools. Gradually let the water level subside and die back to a trickle. You start noticing drops dripping off the rocks and sploshing into the pools. You can hear drops falling off trees into puddles. You start to hear birds singing in the branches. Let the sound go back to a gentle and relaxing background noise.
As you read this, I bet you heard lots of noise in your mind. Its almost impossible not to. Try this again but with your eyes closed and you are in charge this time. Really enjoy your own creation of sound and get into as much detail as possible.
What is extraordinary with this exercise is that if you get into it, your mind lets go of tinnitus completely and really focuses on what you want it to. With practice you can really streamline your ability to hear in a sharp focused way which can help clarify silence away from tinnitus. I have found my ability to hear silence has been helped with this practice.
Once you have practiced this a couple of times, you can now try it when the TV is on, or when music is playing or while you are travelling on the train. In your imagination you can learn to focus all your attention on this imagined sound, even if there is a lot of noise and distraction around you. The more you enjoy and explore this technique, the more you will be able to stay focused. I often imagine the sound of a waterfall crashing around me if I have to take public transport. It makes me feel well.
I enjoy imagining the feeling of standing in the waterfall, so I can hear, smell, taste and feel the cool water rushing down all around me. I have got so used to doing this that it actually becomes invigorating, calming and refreshing. It is the perfect antidote to unpleasant situations that could potentially stress me.
The best sounds to imagine are ones that you love, whether it is the sound of your mother singing, the wind in the trees, children playing outside, or your best friend laughing. Whichever sound you choose, play with it in your mind. The more you change it and explore the possibilities, the deeper you can go into this part of your mind.
Here are some more interesting audiovisualisations to try out:
Find a recording of a song you know really well and love. Sit down and play it from beginning to end and remind yourself of the words. Then when it has finished, sit in silence and play it again in your mind’s ear. See how far you can get. Can you hear all the words right up to the end?
When a new verse starts, change the voice to that of another singer. Try turning it into Welsh men’s choir, or that of an opera diva. Try to hear your own voice. Maybe you decide to hear an instrumental version with strings only and no voice at all. Have fun. The more ridiculous and funny it is, the more you are likely to find it easy to focus on.
Have the singer move up close and sing into your left ear, then into the other one. Have them change position and walk around you. Chose someone gorgeous and enjoy the coquettish way they are singing to you. The sexier the voice the easier it is to focus on.
Then imagine you are the conductor who wants to put them through their paces and speed up the tempo. Hear them struggling to keep up, then slow it right down.
Hear yourself laughing, then hear people in your family starting to laugh too. Then hear people outside laughing, until the whole world is laughing loudly. Sitting on the bus, plane or tube, imagine how each person would laugh. Notice how each person laughs so differently. Waiting at the check-out watch people and imagine what each person would sound like howling with laughter. This is really good fun and puts you into a good mood even on an underground train in rush hour.
With a bit of practice, all these enjoyable sounds can take your mind off tinnitus. It is quite hard to hear your tinnitus when you are really focused on sounds in your mind. They lift your spirits and have a powerful impact on your mood and how relaxed you feel. I really encourage you to have a go, use your imagination and discover how much you can influence your whole central nervous system for the better!