Author Topic: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana  (Read 22901 times)

maocat7

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Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« on: July 11, 2010, 02:31:50 PM »
Hi,

I just attended a 10 day retreat.  On day five I developed a horrible ringing in my ears and it is still with me a week later.  I don't know what I did or what happened.  Has anybody heard of this before?  I think I am going insane the technique is only making it worse.  Any insight anyone has would be much appreciated.

Brian

Vivek

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2010, 07:35:04 AM »
Hi Brian. Is the ringing always there? I mean, does it occur occasionally, like after a sitting etc? Has it subsided anytime for a while, and then came back? Since, you started learning Vipassana on Day 4 (as we usually do on 10-day course) it is quite natural that certain symptoms appear on day 5. This could be some old condition you had in your ears, that is reappearing as these symptoms. If they are due to Vipassana, then be patient, they will subside and leave you in time. You have to MAINTIAN EQUANIMITY towards it, if you want Vipassana to work all the way. What I have seen often is that people are very enthusiastic when they start learning Vipassana, but when they start to get all the uncomfortable symptoms appearing, they start reacting to them and thus, miss the central aspect of Vipassana. Because the technique has started working, we get the symptoms, but if we want all of that to pass, then we have to let Vipassana work its magic all the way through.

So, my suggestion is, if this is just a discomfort, then observe it, patiently as well as persistently. USe these experiences to strengthen the new habit of equanimity.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2010, 10:47:48 AM »
Thank you for your response and insight.  Yes, the ringing is always there.  I know it doesn't make sense, but it is soo loud.  I had to leave on day 9 because I thought there was something medically wrong with my ear and I could no longer practice so I know I missed something.  I am practicing what I learned in terms of observing it objectively, but it is very loud and interfering with my sleep, work, personal relationships etc.  It is always changing from ear to ear a bit and I'm practicing equaniminity the best I know how.  I'm afraid I did something wrong in first practicing the technique. I sure hope this disappears, it is so loud I'm sure I would have noticed this before.  I had to go to the ER for it yesterday, The doctors say that it is unexplained.

I initially just though this persistent ringing was a result of learning the technique, but it has not gone away.

Do you know of anything else I can do or try
« Last Edit: July 13, 2010, 10:51:46 AM by maocat7 »

Vivek

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2010, 12:01:08 PM »
Hi Brian.
Quote
I'm afraid I did something wrong in first practicing the technique.
What specifically have you done wrong when you practiced the technique?

Quote
The doctors say that it is unexplained.
That seems to indicate that my suspicion is correct, the ringing is a symptom of some sankhara that could have some to the surface by practising the technique.

Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2010, 02:33:01 PM »
My ears began to ring when I first learned the technique of the fourth day as I was just beginning to use it around the body.  I followed Goneka's instructions the way I understood them with equanimity.  What I think I did wrong was that I enjoyed the sensation of being in the hypnotic trance and feeling tingly.  I didn't notice the ringing that day after meditation, I continued the next day (day 5) ears ringing thinking that was normal, but I got worried that night when they didn't stop.  Continued without sleep for three and a half more days before I had to leave because I could follow instruciton anymore.  As you can imagine this is very distressing and has lead to an ER room visit. 

Lately I've been afraid to practice the technique at all.  I do not feel angry or bitter about vipassina, I just obviously developed something, sankara or no that is causing me immense discomfort and anxiety.

Thanks for any insight you might have (it has been 5 days since I left the retreat, 9 days since it started.

Slider

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2010, 05:48:54 PM »
Hello maocat7. I can understand what you're going through as I too went through similar extremely (and unusually) traumatic experiences during and after my second 10-day retreat  (though I did not experience any significant physical symptoms such as the ringing in the ears which you supposedly have now). What I experienced was more on a mental level rather than on a direct physical level, but of course, these mental tensions very quickly manifested into intensely unpleasant subtle physical sensations which I could more or less discern throughout the remaining duration of the course. It was like a tornado of unpleasant sensations and had it not been for Mr. Goenka and his life-saving discourses, I would certainly have committed suicide (and that is still an understatement). In hindsight though, I would call my experience really funny: after the sixth day and till the tenth, I used to have extremely strong panic and anxiety attacks for no apparent reason. I used to walk, sit, eat and think in never-ending restless anxiety (and I did not have any reason for it) until the evening discourse where Mr. Goenka's soothing words would calm me down for a reasonably good sleep. Incidentally, Mr. Goenka's explanations and elaborations of the various experiences on each day's discourse astonishingly matched my personal experiences of that day, which further calmed me down till the next morning, when tornadoes would religiously resume.

Anyways, let's come back to your problem. I think that since what you and I have experienced is essentially the same, and also considering that medical doctors cannot help you, what worked for me may also work for you. The following recommendations are mine and may be incorrect and if that's the case then more experienced meditators must correct me.

This is what I did. First I read the following thread thoroughly
http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,672.0.html
Then, there are two approaches.
1. If you are a serious meditator and have sufficient time and energy, meditate your way out of it. This means proper equanimous meditation - a really tough, time consuming and tricky thing to do - and not meditation directed towards eradicating your hearing problem - something you will be inclined to do. The results however, will be tremendous: apart from solving your ringing problem, you will eradicate several sankharas and develop considerably in your meditation.
2. On the other hand, if you don't have time and if your worldly priorities still sit atop meditative priorities (my case), resign from any meditative practices and spiritual intellectual entertainment for a few days while still living your normal householder's lifestyle, until the ringing subsides to a comfortable level. Then start with a little Shamatha-Vipassana- a meditation which will certainly have a very calming and soothing effect on you. This is what I resorted to and achieved considerable results.

It is good to hear that you don't have any ill feelings towards neither Mr. Goenka nor Vipassana and it is understandable that the problem is causing you immense "anxiety and distress". I will not suggest you to not be anxious and distressful, but, no matter what happens, try to remain as equanimous as possible in every situation. It is, after all the nature of every sensation to arise and pass away. This ringing and anxiety that you are experiencing is not eternal and you are certainly not doomed.

And if what I've suggested does not work out, and if the doctors cannot come up with a plausible explanation and solution, then there's always Matthew, from whom you are about to receive advice very soon.

As far as I'm concerned, although I am not seriously engaged in meditation right now, I wish to again partake in a third retreat and resume my practice after, of course, completing some unfinished worldly business. Till then I plan to practice shamatha and I suggest you do the same.

soma

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2010, 07:57:08 PM »
Hello maocat7 !

I have experienced this tinnitus twice  and it lasted for about two weeks on both occasions and then disappeared.
It was more like a constant 'ping' sound, like the sound from a small bell.
I have also heard of some other people that got this tinnitus on retreat and asked the teachers about it but they did not really know what it was but told them to just stay equanimous about it and it would eventually subside.

Jhananda ( a former member of this forum ) has some information about 'clairaudience' on his website with sutta references and some other bits and pieces.
I have no idea if this occasional tinnitus have anything to do with clairaudience but it might be worth reading his article.
Maybe you can use the sound as your object of concentration if you practice shamatha ?
Better still - hope it goes away soon.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2010, 08:01:06 PM by soma »

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2010, 09:06:26 PM »
Thank you both to Soma and Slider on this.  I read the piece on clairaudience and it doesn't seem to apply to me.  I just got back from an audiologist and he said it is "idiopathic" (means no apparent cause) and there isn't a treatment.  He was puzzled by my explanation of it happening during a quiet mediation retreat as such ringings are usually caused by trauma or loud noises or hearing loss.  Thanks your your empathy as this is very distressing and I have now had to result to drugs to sleep as the noise is VERY LOUD. The sound is a very high pitched ring with a bit of a buzz. I hope that it does subside in a few weeks.

Soma; did you get your tinnitus while doing meditation?  Was it a loud and annoying ringing that was always present?  Did you meditate while it was present.

I am afraid to practice deep vipassana right now as it only intensifies it and makes my other ear ring briefly too, I'm mostly just trying to be equanimous and patient with hopes that this will subside.  I have thought maybe it is because of a sankhara but I don't know if such a sankara would manifest this painfully in and this form.

I am eagerly awaiting anyother advice or similar experiences.

Kris

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2010, 10:27:12 PM »
I got a case of extremely loud tinnitus in my teens after listening to rock concerts for a whole day without earplugs. I was scared to death for three weeks until it suddenly disappeared.

Try to leave all worries behind.

Vivek

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2010, 07:04:42 AM »
That's a great post, Slider! Thanks for sharing your experience. Brian, I hope there are enough suggestions given for you to make some headway. Please do try them out and let us know. In any case, I still stongly believe that if you stick to your practice, sooner or later this problem should disappear. But then again, you have to keep in mind that these kinds of symptoms can appear again as expressions of some other more deeper sankharas, if you continue on the path of Vipassana. The key is to utilize all of them for your own progress, and I do realize that is quite hard; many of us who practice Vipassana go through such phases now and then. It is not possible to walk steadily on the path, always. Sometimes, we fall. Then we have to pick ourselves up and start walking again. Keep walking till the goal is reached.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

xsmallard

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2010, 01:17:55 AM »
Hi...I have had ringing in my ears for 10 plus years non stop 24/7/365 and when I meditate it is at its worst/loudest. However I just observe it and don't give it any energy but it is always there, meditation or not. Regardless, you should see your MD to ensure that it is "just" tinnitus and if it is unilateral (only one ear) then that can be indicative of some underlying condition that requires further investigation, rather than garden variety tinnitus which is bilateral (both ears) which is something you have to learn live with. I am still learning. :-)

soma

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2010, 09:36:23 PM »
Soma; did you get your tinnitus while doing meditation?  Was it a loud and annoying ringing that was always present?  Did you meditate while it was present.


No. I did not have any formal meditation practice the first time this happened but I did the second time but it did not happen during meditation.
The sound was not very loud but clearly audible and was always present during those few weeks and I did meditate with the sound in my ears/head.

I second everthing Vivek says in his post above - it is as it is and all you can do is to watch it to death with equanimity. I understand that this is easier said than done but the alternative is even worse so keep sitting and please tell us how it goes and what happens.


maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2010, 11:10:03 PM »
Hey all.  thank you so much for you thoughts on this.  It turns out that me learning vipassana just happened to coincide with me coming down with a sinus infection that is putting pressure on the auditory nerve. MRI confirmed this.  Must have been all those sniffling noses in the mountains. Most expensive cold I have ever had.

Slider

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2010, 06:49:34 AM »
Good to hear that maocat7. At least your anxiety must have gone by now. Money after all, did buy you peace, didn't it?

123abc

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2010, 02:37:04 PM »
Tinnitus isn't fun to hav... I have about a hundred different tones in my ears.. Im pretty sure good mindfulness helps with destroying the concepts i put behind it.... When im not thinking about the ringing, its like its just apart of me and it doesn't bother....  I can see how a sudden new experience with tinitus will add some heavy thoughts to yourself.. Like when i was first experiencing, thinking was going insane... The prob with my tinnitus, though, wasn't caused through meditation.. I destroyed my ears years ago delibrately by making music at loud volumes...

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2010, 10:10:47 AM »
So apparently it is not a sinus infection. A month later my meditation induced Tinnitus continues 24/7. At this point I am very concerned and too much of a novice to navigate my way out of this. Since my ears have been ringing so loud and so long I am afraid I did damage to myself as absurd as that sounds. I'm getting a little desperate now and willing to try anything. Again, the tinnitus started the moment I learned the vipassana technique and has persisted ever since. I don't practice anymore for fear of doing more damage. Please help!

Moggalana

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2010, 03:23:40 PM »
Greetings maocat7,

there is another possibility. You might be experiencing what some people call the sound of silence.

Quote
A meditation technique taught and used by Ajahn Sumedho involves resting in what he calls "The Sound of Silence"[4]. He talks at length about this technique in one his books titled "The Way It Is"[5]. Although some may regard it as the same thing as the Nada yoga in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a closer read of the chapter about Nada yoga in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika will clearly reveal that they are indeed different. The "Sound of Silence" is also the title of one of Ajahn Sumedho's books (published by Wisdom in 2007). In his book, "Sound of Silence," he mentions that it is not actually influenced by his study of Ven. Hsu Yun's works or by the Shurangama Sutra, though he has heard that the Shurangama mentions a similar practice.
The source and an article about it.

The moral of the story: if you can't get rid of it, use it as a support for your meditation. But you should consult your physician just to see if there is any medical condition.

Tingus

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2010, 09:57:27 AM »
Hi maocat7,

If the ringing is not a medical condition, then it looks like to me you've got too much energy in the brains, which needs to be recirculated and spread through all your body.

Thanks
« Last Edit: August 03, 2010, 10:05:30 AM by Tingus »

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2010, 07:14:12 PM »
After an MRI and extensive medical testing, the persistent and horrible ringing is definitely not a medical condition (I've now been to 4 doctors for this).  The horrible ringing continues and it interferes with my sleep and is with me all the time.  Pardon me as I am new to the Path and don't know very much, but this has caused much distress.  If this was a sankhara shouldn't it have resolved itself by now? 

Unfortunately I have had to resort to medication to sleep and to manage the anxiety.  I don't know what else to do and right now another 10-day course is out of the question.  To be clear, this is not just a simple case of tinnitus, it is a horrible shriek or scream that alternates ears.  It has been going on since the 5th day of the course and has now persisted for over a month.

Any insight is appreciated.


Masauwu

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2010, 08:43:29 PM »
Hi maocat7,

While everyone here is trying to help you with suggestions, maybe your best chance for insight on this issue is talking to a good meditation teacher. Until you find him/her, Vivek`s reply seems to be the best advice; maybe you looked inside, found something unusual and then started looking outside for an explanation, interrupting the process.

You have to MAINTAIN EQUANIMITY towards it, if you want Vipassana to work all the way. What I have seen often is that people are very enthusiastic when they start learning Vipassana, but when they start to get all the uncomfortable symptoms appearing, they start reacting to them and thus, miss the central aspect of Vipassana. Because the technique has started working, we get the symptoms, but if we want all of that to pass, then we have to let Vipassana work its magic all the way through.

So, my suggestion is, if this is just a discomfort, then observe it, patiently as well as persistently. USe these experiences to strengthen the new habit of equanimity.

Whatever that thing is, it just is. If you fight it you will just empower it, if you look for it outside of you then you will never find it. Sit with it and let it be and maybe it will tell you its story and then go away.

:)
« Last Edit: August 04, 2010, 08:49:39 PM by Masauwu »
The summer river:
although there is a bridge, my horse
goes through the water.

Vivek

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2010, 06:46:45 AM »
Thanks for reiterating the point, Masauwu. I wish maocat7 all the success to get though his difficulties.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2010, 07:43:26 PM »
To be clear in documenting my experience and for the benefit of everyone on this board, I will first describe my experience with vipassina and then talk about my horrible and persistent ear ringing problem that has persisted since I learned the technique.

I am new to Dharma and first became interested and fascinated with Eastern traditions of enlightenment during a couple of trips to Cambodia I was privileged to take in 2008 and 2009. In a country wreaked by political violence and intense poverty I was amazed at how peaceful, wise and happy the Khemer people were. I fell in love with the country and culture. Officially I am an atheist and recovering Catholic, so I am very skeptical of religion and claims to past or everlasting life. That said, I have always been intrigued by the principles of eastern philosophical traditions including Buddhist thought.

I signed up for a 10-Day Vipassana meditation retreat taught in the tradition of Goneka. The place was in the Pacific Northwest in a beautiful setting. You are not to talk to people and must follow a code of discipline that includes getting up at 4AM and not really eating after noon, no intoxicants and no sex. The first three days of the retreat all you do is focus on your breathing. That is it. It was very boring but during these three days I began to focus on thoughts and anxieties that have plagued me for several years. It was very productive. I also spent a lot of time thinking of inane things like episodes of South Park or my favorite movies, which was not very productive. I had my eyes closed for 10 to 12 hours each day focusing on breathing. During this time I began to see hallucinations on the back of my eyelids and uncomfortable and bad thoughts about things that have haunted me over the years, but it was really good because I was processing them in a new and "objective" kind of way. On the fourth day you begin to learn vipassana. At first I stumbled and a man in the meditation hall who must have had tourettes or other mental problem kept making noises and fidgeting so it was hard to concentrate. However, after much struggle on the fourth day I learned vipassana meditation and it was total bliss. My whole body shimmered, I felt that there were the hands of 1000 tiny apsaras messaging every inch of my body. The sensations came in waves, at first I was unable to control them but then, under the guidance of recorded audio, I began to control the sensations in a systematic way. My body hurt from hours and days in the lotus position, but it didn't matter. I loved what I was learning. The fifth day progressed and I suddenly noticed that my ears were ringing during the hypnotic trance I put myself in. At first this was not uncomfortable at all and I just observed. I figured it was part of the experience. I did spend some time focusing on the ringing in my ears, but quickly moved to other parts of my body per the instructions. On the morning of the sixth day, I woke up with a horrible ringing in my ears that was very distressing and uncomfortable. I continued to learn and practice, but it was distracting me and I had a bad day. On that day, I broke silence (as was permitted) to talk to the teacher about it. He told me to continue and that it was part of the process. The seventh day was much better and I was able to meditate and learn more methods about observing thoughts and sensations in my body, I was aware of everything my body was doing, heart valves working, digestion, minute movement. The ears started ringing horribly again and I did not sleep at all that night. I was stubborn and persisted throughout the eight day, but I was beginning to lose it. The ringing was going on all the time and I was becoming more and more agitated. I didn't sleep again that night because of the ringing and sought emergency advice with a the teacher at 2AM on day 9. I wanted to leave to see a doctor, and he said it was my choice but encouraged me to stay for the morning sessions and that I was so close to finishing. I was so exhausted but did the morning meditation. By noon, I knew I couldn't do it any more and left. It was bizarre to be in a car and listening to the radio after nearly 10 days of silence. My ears continued to ring and even got louder. After driving home for 6 hours I went to the emergency room because I thought something was horribly wrong with my ears. After several vists to a doctor, and MRI and an audiologist they all confirmed that noting was wrong with me. I was prescribed sedatives and sleeping pills. I also took up drinking. The ringing is still there and has disturbed me enough to make me feel hopelessly depressed. I am seeing a therapist now, but the ringing will not stop.

I have no hard feelings at all about what I did and would probably do it again if I were ever in as strong as mental and physical shape as I was in just five or six short weeks ago. Since, the horrible and constant noise is driving me insane, I know I can't will it to stop but meditation does nothing or intensifies it. It is not a positive thing at all and while I have read similar stories of people having ringing, others report it as a positive thing or something that only happens during meditation. I don't know what I did or how I could have hurt myself by doing something that was intended to make me more aware and open.

I recounted my experience for the benefit of everyone. I can't say I would recommend or not recommend a vipassina retreat. It should have been a positive experience, but it did cause a debilitating handicap which I do not have the tools or knowledge to cope with.

Peace

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #22 on: August 10, 2010, 04:49:56 PM »
Just as a warning to all. Be carful before considering attending a 10-day retreat.  You may be getting more than you ever bargained for.  I didn't know I could hurt myself like this, but in a different context, Goneka's method might be considered torture. I know thousands go to these every year and have wonderful experiences.  I just would like to balance that by saying novices should know that you are doing serious adjustments to your neural pathways and the bad effects may not go away.

idud

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #23 on: August 11, 2010, 12:02:58 PM »
Hi,
You are scaring me. I had thought to do a 10-days retreat on September in Spain but ...
What are these bad effects never go away?
Please if you know something I must to know tell me! :)
thanks,

maocat7

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Re: Persistent ringing in ears after vipassana
« Reply #24 on: August 11, 2010, 06:19:15 PM »
Just as my post mentions, my ear has been ringing loudly since vipassana six weeks ago.  Most people seem to have a positive experience, but I have somehow came away with a terrible ailment that wont go away.  I wouldn't tell you not to go, but I can't say I'd recommend going either.  I'm tortured by this sound that will not go away and I don't know how to fix it.