If you think using sound to help ease the ringing in your ears seems a little counterintuitive, you’re not alone. Many tinnitus sufferers just learning to navigate managing their condition are often skeptical of sound therapy as an effective modality for symptom management.
Simply put, sound therapy is the use of sounds, music, and other auditory stimuli to normalize noise and ease the psychosomatic impact of regular ringing in the ears. Like other forms of sensory therapy, sound therapy can have many benefits beyond tinnitus care alone. Keep reading to learn more about the science behind this promising method of mitigation.
How Can Sound Ease Sound?
It’s important to remember that tinnitus is all about the perception of sound – not actual sounds. So when the presence of pleasant ones replaces the perception of unpleasant sounds, our auditory neurons essentially shift their focus back to their core purpose, which is to transmit and process actual sound. So think of sound therapy as a kind of “retraining” process for the auditory system, where real sounds basically interrupt the phantom ones.
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
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Moreover, an even greater benefit of sound therapy is that, through normalizing noise, you also normalize your body’s response to it. And it turns out that this is profoundly cathartic. Given the abundance of noises in our daily lives, sound therapy offers tools to process a range of stimuli in a healthy, centering way. Much like meditative practices, the process confers skills to find peace amid the noise.
Lastly, this shift in perspective accomplishes a third important benefit: lowering stress and reducing the negative emotions associated with tinnitus, thus resulting in less frequent and severe occurrences of tinnitus.
Moreover, with no harm or side effects observed in sound therapy unlike the side effects associated with pharmacological or surgical intervention, there appears to be little risk in trying it out.
What Are The Different Methods Of Sound Therapy?
Sound therapy is a holistic methodology which uses sound-based methods to diminish tinnitus symptoms and enrich people’s lives. Some of the ways this can be done include wearing hearing aids, using masking noises, ‘fractal’ tones, or combining sound therapies with counseling sessions.
Hearing Aids For Those With Hearing Loss
Having good hearing is indispensable, yet it can be a challenge for those with auditory deficiencies. Fortunately, today’s modern hearing aids are more sophisticated than ever before and have the capacity to drastically improve quality of life for those suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus.
One of the key benefits of hearing aids is their ability to amplify sound, which allows speech and environmental sounds to be more easily heard and understood. As speech is an important signal to the brain, it will often require greater attention from the brain compared to tinnitus. With the help of a hearing aid, people with hearing loss can have a more natural and fulfilling listening experience.
Not only do modern hearing aids offer improved auditory clarity, but many models go even further with a range of features designed to help ameliorate the symptoms of various conditions. Certain models generate sounds on their own that can be used for sound therapy or masking background noises; this is especially beneficial for those suffering from tinnitus and its characteristic ringing or buzzing in the ears.
So, aside from improving hearing and distracting your brain from tinnitus, hearing aids can also provide soothing sounds (relieving stress) and contrast reduction (making the tinnitus less noticeable compared to other sounds in the environment).
Masking noise is an effective approach to lessening the impact of tinnitus, using either a neutral or more pleasing sound as a cover. This strategy helps lessen its perception and can bring relief to those suffering with it.
Fortunately, there are many options for masking noise. Any sound, whether it’s noise, music, or natural sounds, can be used. Some popular sources of masking noise include smartphone apps, fans or air conditioners, hearing aids, CDs, and other sound-generating sources. We have worked hard to create a playlist of the best masking sounds for tinnitus, and they can be found on our YouTube channel by clicking here.
Masking noise alone will not miraculously cure tinnitus, yet it can be an extremely useful tool to alleviate its signs and symptoms. Research has revealed that using masking noise in combination with therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy could help individuals cope better with their condition. With this dual approach of combining the two forms of treatment, people have experienced short-term relief from their suffering caused by tinnitus.
Fractal tones are a chain of tones generated by an algorithm in Widex hearing aids. These tones are like music or chimes, but they are not as predictable as traditional music. This unpredictability can provide relaxation and reduce stress, which may, in turn, lead to a reduced effect of tinnitus.
In addition to their relaxation benefits, fractal tones may also have a masking effect on tinnitus. By providing a background sound, the fractal tones can help to cover up the sound of tinnitus and reduce its impact on your daily life.
Sound Therapies Combined With Counseling
When it comes to using sound in combination with counseling, there are a variety of techniques available. However, some methods have been found to be particularly effective, which are listed down below.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) involves a combination of constant, low-level background noise with directed counseling. The goal is to help the brain reframe the tinnitus as a neutral, non-threatening sound, so that it can learn not to focus on it. This therapy is often delivered through devices worn in or on the ears.
In addition to sound therapy, TRT also involves individualized counseling sessions that aim to demystify the auditory system and tinnitus. By understanding how the auditory system works and how tinnitus can affect it, patients can learn to better manage their symptoms and reduce their overall distress.
A recent randomized control trial by Formby, Yang, and Scherer suggests that sound therapy in TRT is an important contributor to its efficacy. According to the results of this study, participants who underwent TRT experienced a notable improvement in their tinnitus symptoms compared to those who didn’t receive any treatment or used other forms of therapy.
Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment (NTT)
Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment (NTT) is a sound-based therapy that utilizes customized music, personalized to the user’s degree of hearing loss even in higher frequencies. The audio treatment is administered through headphones for several hours daily and intended to help tinnitus sufferers become accustomed to their condition over an extended period.
As the treatment progresses, background noise is removed and music volume reduced to increase tinnitus awareness. This process helps reduce sensations of discomfort due to the condition and can make it simpler for those affected by tinnitus to cope with their symptoms in a more effective manner. Counseling is also an important part of NTT, where a trained professional works with the patient to set realistic expectations and provide support throughout the treatment process.
Sound Therapy During Sleep
The Otoharmonics Levo system offers a unique form of therapy for those living with tinnitus. Through subtle, personalized sound played through in-ear headphones during sleep, the brain gradually adjusts its interpretation of the tinnitus signal over time. This device stands out from other treatments as it is designed to be used while sleeping and may appeal to individuals who cannot wear devices throughout their daily activities. Moreover, scientific research has indicated that this treatment surpasses bedside sound generators alone when managing these auditory disturbances.
Sound For Neuromodulation
Various neuromodulation techniques have been tested in experimental settings, and they have shown encouraging outcomes in mitigating the symptoms associated with tinnitus. Some key examples of these techniques are listed below.
Notched Sound Therapies
Notched sound therapy can be used with certain types of hearing aid amplification or with filtered music. The therapy involves not amplifying the frequency of the tinnitus in a hearing aid or filtering out that frequency in music. This approach may inhibit neural activity related to tinnitus.
Research has shown that notched sound therapy can effectively treat tinnitus. Reducing neural activity related to tinnitus can help reduce the perception of sound and improve the quality of life for people who suffer from tinnitus.
‘Acoustic Coordinated Reset’ Sound Therapy
The Desyncra device, which uses ‘Acoustic Coordinated Reset’ sound therapy, presents a sound sample through headphones using repeated four tones based on specific ratios to the tinnitus’ frequency. This therapy aims to disrupt the synchronized firing of neurons related to tinnitus.
While the Desyncra device has shown promise in research studies, it is no longer clinically available. However, this technology continues to be studied and may lead to new and innovative treatments for tinnitus in the future.
One of the newest and most promising tinnitus treatments is bimodal stimulation, which combines sound therapy with other sensory stimulation to change the neural pathways in the brain related to persistent tinnitus.
Neuromod’s Lenire Device
The Neuromod Lenire device is a prime example of bimodal stimulation. It uses sound based on the frequency of the tinnitus, which is locked in time with controlled stimulations of the tip of the tongue. This device aims to change the neural pathways in the brain related to tinnitus and improve symptoms. This device has been in use for around a year in Europe, and was recently granted de novo approval by the FDA for use in the United States.
Neosensory Duo Device
Another example of bimodal stimulation is the Neosensory Duo device. This device uses tones that are presented with vibrations on the wrist through a wristband. By combining sound therapy with other sensory stimulation, this device aims to improve tinnitus symptoms and provide relief for people currently suffering from tinnitus symptoms.
So, Does Sound Therapy Work For Tinnitus?
If you suffer from tinnitus, you know how frustrating and debilitating it can be to constantly hear ringing, buzzing, or other sounds in your ears. You may have tried various remedies and treatments, but hopefully, after reading this guide, you’ll consider the benefits sound therapy can provide people.
Sound therapy is a broad term that encompasses a variety of techniques aimed at managing tinnitus through the use of sound. These approaches can range from simple white noise machines to more advanced treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, which seeks to change your emotional and psychological response to tinnitus.
One of the challenges in studying the effectiveness of sound therapy is the vast array of methods and technologies available. Additionally, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to tinnitus treatment. As a result, what’s effective for one person may not work as well for another, and there is no definitive “best” treatment.
Despite these difficulties, numerous studies have revealed that sound therapy can help to alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus for some individuals. Furthermore, a recent 2021 literature review established that sound therapy is more effective than medication or education on its own.
To determine the efficacy of sound therapy in treating chronic tinnitus, a study observed 58 patients. The results showed that with extended use of sound therapy, one’s chances for symptom relief increased dramatically. Moreover, two experiments conducted by University of California-Irvine concluded that over half experienced both short and long-term benefits!
No single treatment can truly match everyone’s needs for tinnitus relief, yet discovering the technique that works best for you may involve taking a thorough look at how the condition impacts your life. An experienced audiologist who specializes in tinnitus treatments can help you individualize an effective management plan that incorporates sound therapy and other strategies to best fit your unique needs and situation