How Ear-Level Sound Generators Are Used For Tinnitus

Ear Level Sound Generators Tinnitus

Do you suffer from tinnitus or hyperacusis, yet your hearing test is in the normal range? This problem affects more people than you may think, but thankfully there’s help available. This article aims to explore the success of treating tinnitus and/or hyperacusis using a device called an ear-level sound generator.

We’ll review how this technology can relieve tinnitus as part of tinnitus retraining therapy and its benefits. Furthermore, we’ll also explore the difference between the use of white noise, pink noise, and a zero-decibel noise floor using different sound generators.

Dr. Ben Thompson talks about the ear-level sound generators used for tinnitus.

What Is An Ear-Level Sound Generator Device?

There are various companies that make ear-level sound generators for tinnitus management that can be obtained through audiology clinics specializing in tinnitus.

These devices are worn behind the ear, where there’s a thin wire with a small speaker at its end, which gets inserted in the ear canal. The speaker is very small and is held inside an ear dome, which has small openings and comes in several sizes. The dome fits well in the ear canal while leaving it open, which is crucial in preventing a plugged-up sensation for the user.

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"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
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The slim, small, and comfortable devices generate various sounds that can be useful for tinnitus retraining therapy, since ear-level sound generators are meant to be worn as part of tinnitus sound therapy for most of the day. 

For tinnitus patients who spend most of their daily life at home, like a home office, tinnitus sound therapy through a standalone sound generator, like a noise machine, might suffice. However, for those who are constantly on the go and lead more active lifestyles, having a device that sits on the ear provides a more convenient and effective tinnitus management method.

The Difference Between White Noise And Pink Noise

White and pink noise are two common types generated by ear-level sound generators for tinnitus, and when trying to find an ear-level sound generator that works best for you, It’s important to understand the difference between them. 

White noise is made up of equal energy across a very wide frequency range, so it contains low, middle, and high-frequency sounds. The range of pink noise is narrower, and it does not have nearly as much high-frequency stimulus as white noise.

Tinnitus patients may find that certain sound therapies work better for their tinnitus compared to others depending on the sound used, so it’s recommended to try several types of sound for your tinnitus. 

One of the factors in determining what works best is the type of tinnitus sound you may be experiencing. For example, high-pitch tinnitus may be better helped by white noise, since it contains more high-frequency sounds. Once you find a sound that you can effectively use as a neutral background sound, try to stick with that sound as your tinnitus sound therapy.

In addition to having a choice between pink and white noise when using an ear-level sound generator for tinnitus, users can also adjust the volume through a little knob on the device itself. The volume on the device starts at a zero-decibel noise floor so that tinnitus patients can start with more gentle sounds and go louder if necessary. They can also adjust the volume based on the fluctuations of their tinnitus, which are common.

The devices are intended for patients with hearing within normal limits but struggle with tinnitus or hyperacusis. The devices do not provide any sound amplification and don’t help you hear better, and are typically not used for patients with hearing loss. Instead, for those patients who experience both hearing loss and tinnitus there are specific hearing aid/tinnitus sound generator combination devices which are commonly used.

The Advantages Of Ear-Level Sound Generators

One advantage of ear-level sound generators for tinnitus management is that they’re small, discreet, and nearly invisible on the people wearing them. One such device, the Tranquil 2, manufactured by SoftTouchLabs, comes in four different colors (beige, brown, silver, and black), making it easy to match it to a person’s hair or skin color.

In our experience working with telehealth patients with tinnitus, this device is very reliable and easy to use. It doesn’t have as many electrical components as a hearing aid, so it’s more resistant to environmental factors like humidity. Many patients report that these devices often last for years and can be kept on hand to help manage tinnitus spikes

The Disadvantages Of Ear-Level Sound Generators

One key disadvantage of an ear-level sound generator like the Tranquil 2 is that it lacks Bluetooth compatibility, which is common in many modern devices. Thus, they can not take phone calls, stream music, or listen to other sound therapies which are available for download. 

That said, many tinnitus patients don’t require these features for their treatment, while others simply appreciate the simplicity. 

How Long Should Tinnitus Sound Therapy Be Followed?

Most tinnitus retraining therapy protocols lay out a treatment plan of 6 to 18 months of consistent, daily tinnitus sound therapy. While using sound therapy for tinnitus may seem simple, it does offer a significant impact in managing tinnitus, and a device like the Tranquil 2 can provide real-time relief and long-term positive neurological effects on the auditory system.

Nonetheless, devices like the Tranquil 2 are only intended to be used as part of tinnitus treatment temporarily. Once the initial tinnitus retraining period is over and a clinically significant reduction in tinnitus is achieved, sound therapy can be tapered and used as needed for any future tinnitus spikes.

Your audiologist will monitor your progress with your tinnitus therapy. Some of the tools used to measure tinnitus are through the use of self-assessment questionnaires, such as the Tinnitus Functional Index. Your audiologist will assess your tinnitus at the onset of tinnitus therapy and will also have ongoing reassessments to monitor your progress.

Hearing Aids Vs. Ear Level Sound Generators

When considering ear-level sound generators for tinnitus or hyperacusis treatment, your audiologist may also recommend hearing aids with features for tinnitus, which are considered combination devices. Although they’re most frequently used by tinnitus patients who also need treatment for their hearing loss, they can also be programmed for people with normal hearing.

When hearing aids are used by tinnitus patients with normal hearing, the amplification feature is turned off, and the aid is used similarly to ear-level sound generators. The main difference between hearing aids and ear-level sound generators is that the former would typically have some Bluetooth streaming options. Furthermore, hearing aids are typically 30 to 50% more expensive than ear-level sound generators on average, due to the differences in the technology required for hearing aid amplification.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ear-Level Sound Generators

“I just have tinnitus in one ear. Do I need to wear one or two ear-level sound generators?” 

We recommend using a pair of devices for both unilateral tinnitus (tinnitus in one ear only) or asymmetrical tinnitus (tinnitus that is perceived to be louder in one ear). 

Positive neurological effects are correlated with stimulation in both areas of the auditory brain, which is achieved by playing tinnitus sound therapy in both ears simultaneously. Some tinnitus patients report a shift in their tinnitus to the good ear when only using one ear-level sound generator.

“Will they make my hearing worse?”

Ear-level sound generators are safe to use and won’t worsen your all. Other questions like “How do I use them?”, “Am I the right candidate?” and “How long do I have to wear them for my specific case?” are more personal and individualized, and thus are best addressed in a direct one-on-one consultation with your healthcare provider.

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