Let’s begin with an analogy: if I were to break my wrist and go to the doctor, she might tell me, “Okay, you have an injury, something went wrong. It’s going to take a certain amount of time to recover. And you’re going to use certain tools to help the body heal. But by the end of your recovery, you won’t need these tools anymore.” If I break my wrist, she might give me a wristband or cast; by the end of my recovery, I won’t need the cast any longer.
Thus, don’t think of sound therapy as giving up on your tinnitus, but rather think of sound therapy as offering a therapeutic benefit. Sound therapy ultimately helps rehabilitate the auditory neurons contributing to tinnitus and serves as a necessary step in retraining your tinnitus.
Sound Therapy Machines
One useful sound therapy device is a sound machine. When considering sound machines, the most important aspect to consider is sound enrichment. Neurologically, the key is constant, low-level sound enrichment throughout the waking hours of the tinnitus retraining period. Sound enrichment involves using various types of sounds to create low-level sound stimulation, so that you’re not toughing out your tinnitus in silent environments. These sounds can include white noise, pink noise, natural water sounds (river, rain, ocean waves, etc.), natural sounds (crickets, birds, etc.), music (instrumental or with lyrics), podcasts, conversation, or situational ambient sounds (from being outside, going on a walk, keeping the TV on in the background, etc.). Ultimately, your brain does not have a preference for whether the sound is generated naturally or via technology such as a sound machine or hearing aid.
Consider picking a technology or mode of sound therapy that makes the most sense for you and your lifestyle. For instance, some patients use sound machines in their home office when they’re not in meetings or in other background settings at home (kitchen, bedroom, etc.). Sound machines can be used day or night, as they can often plug into a wall socket, and they offer you the ability to play different sound therapy tracks. Most sound machines also operate independently of your phone, so there’s no need to connect your phone.
Bone Conduction Headphones
Bone conduction headphones play sound through the mastoid bone (situated right next to the ear), thereby allowing you to keep the ear canal open.
It’s important to keep your ear canals open, as the ambient sound around you can help with your habituation and teach the brain to tune out and reduce tinnitus perception over time. Most bone conduction headphones are not too visually distracting. That said, their battery life is limited, so they are best used situationally.
Ear-Level Sound Generators
Ear-level sound generators are used by patients with a normal range hearing test. They look similar to hearing aids and can be worn around during the day. They have rubber tips fitted with natural holes in them, and thus they keep the ear canals open. They are typically acquired via an audiologist, who can help identify the right fit for you.
Another daytime sound therapy option are hearing aids. Most hearing aids can be programmed for tinnitus, regardless of whether you have hearing loss or hearing in the normal range. One benefit about most hearing aids is that they offer Bluetooth compatibility. That said, there are many different brands of hearing aids, so feel free to check out the other guides posted on our website.
An evening sound therapy option is a sleep headband. Most sleep headbands include little speakers that fit next to your ears when the headband is worn correctly. Most headbands connect to your phone or computer via Bluetooth, enabling you to play gentle sounds throughout the evening. Sleep headbands are designed for comfort, allowing you to sleep through the night in whatever position you prefer.
Another nighttime option to consider are Bose Sleepbuds. The Sleepbuds are small devices that fit nice and comfortably inside of the ears. While they do occlude the ears, they are customized for tinnitus sound therapy and offer Bluetooth connectivity through the Bose app.
That said, you can only stream through the proprietary Bose app and unfortunately can’t play your own audio through the Sleepbuds.
A common option available to folks are Apple AirPods. As you probably know, these fit well; however, they do occlude the ear, and aren’t recommended for long-term daily use.
When you block or “occlude” your ear, you risk making your tinnitus louder. While the AirPods offer a transparency mode that lets you hear the natural world around you, it comes in the form of a computerized ambient noise rather than a natural ambient noise. While I don’t recommend using AirPods for everyday tinnitus sound therapy, they can help if they’re the only sound therapy device available to you.
While it’s okay to completely mask your tinnitus at night, during the day it’s important to try to find a point where you can still hear your tinnitus during your sound therapy, and to not go much louder than that. These levels are based on your own hearing test; if you’re looking for a hearing test, check out Treble Health’s free hearing test.
All in all, it’s important to remember that a majority of tinnitus cases do get better, and that sound therapy is one of many tools to help you in your journey to recovery.
What To Do Next For Tinnitus
Still on the hunt for the best tinnitus sound therapy? Don’t feel lost. At Treble Health, we have compiled a comprehensive consumer guide to the best tinnitus devices on the market. Click here to get the Tinnitus Guide: 2022 Edition.
Want to speak with an expert audiologist about your options for tinnitus treatment instead? At the tap of a finger, you can schedule a free Treble Health Tinnitus Consultation today! You’ll be connected with a real audiologist, not a salesperson, and there is no obligation or commitment.