Self Induced Sound Therapy (BP) For Chronic Conditions

Supplier: Yourself.  Yoga teacher can teach technique.  The internet (e.g. www.youtube.com) has different videos showing how to do this technique.
Cost: Free.  If necessary, you could pay for 15 to 30 minute yoga session to learn technique (approximately $10 to $20 in Canada).
Category: Mind Enrichment (Relaxation), Body Enrichment.
Sound Type: Relaxation sound (your own humming).
Sound Device: None.
How to Use: Self-induced sound therapy is done with a special yogic breathing technique called Bhramari Pranayama (BP).  It is best to learn the technique from a trained yoga teacher.  Once you have learned it, you can do it on your own.  Basically the position involves sitting comfortably (e.g. cross legged if possible) with the eyes closed.  The hands are placed in a special position on the head.  Your hands should be pointed upward.  The thumbs press on the little triangle or flap of flesh (tragus) in front of your ear openings so that it closes off the ear canals.  The remaining four fingers point towards the face.  The index and middle fingers are placed on the forehead above the eyebrows. The ring and little fingers rest on the closed upper eyelids.  All four fingers press lightly and should be arranged approximately in a vertical line with each other.  Breathe deeply in and as you breathe out, hum deep in your throat like a bumblebee.  Keep your mouth closed while you breathe out.  Continue deep breathing and humming for at least 5 minutes.
Anecdotal Evidence: Many people with chronic conditions report that yoga helps make them feel more relaxed and better able to cope.
Clinical Trials: I found this tool described in recent research (Sidheshwar, P., Niladri, K. M., & Ravishankar, N. (2010). Role of self-induced sound therapy: Bhramari Pranayama in Tinnitus.  Audiological Medicine, early online, 1-5.).  In this study, the researchers did clinical trials that included groups using BP.  BP sessions were done in 5 minute sessions, 5 times a day.  Treatment was used over the course of 8 weeks. They found BP significantly reduced irritability, depression and anxiety for people with tinnitus. The researchers believe that BP helps modulate the autonomic nervous system.  This system is involved in ‘fight or flight’ reactions that could be aggravated by negative emotional reactions to tinnitus in people with distress.
Evidence Based Research: Research over the years has found people with tinnitus or sound sensitivity benefit from various relaxation techniques including deep breathing or yoga.
Other similar products: Various styles of deep breathing or yoga techniques are available.
Cost-Benefit Analysis: Sidheshwar et al. (2010) outline potential benefits of BP including low cost, no need for masking equipment, and fewer visits needed to therapy centres for conventional or supervised treatment types. If it doesn’t work, is it worth the time and learning cost involved?  If it helps you cope better, is it worth the time to use this technique?

My Opinion: Last year I was taking a yoga class where the teacher used a variety of techniques.  One of the techniques was BP.  In our class we would do the technique for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  I found it very relaxing.  I didn’t know it could be helpful for tinnitus so I didn’t use it much outside of class.  Now it’s a technique I am trying to work into my weekly routine.  I think it’s a good easy tool that could be used a few times a day or for a longer session once a day – perhaps several times a week – depending on how busy a person is.  I also wonder if it could be useful for people with too much hearing loss to use conventional sound therapy.  Although they would not hear their own humming, I think that they would still get relaxation benefits from the combined humming throat vibration, deep breathing, and finger/facial sensations that are involved in this technique.

Jan L. Mayes ©2010