May 13 – 19 is Tinnitus Awareness Week. In recognition of this, we’re posting a series of blog posts on Tinnitus management authored by ReSound’s Michael Piskosz. The first post in this series talks about the role of sound therapy in Tinnitus management.
Tinnitus Management – Sound Therapy
Sound therapy is intended to act as a diversion to distract the individual’s attention away from the Tinnitus. As the following diagram shows, when you introduce sound, the contrast between the Tinnitus and background environment is minimized, meaning the Tinnitus is less noticeable. For example, individuals often comment that their Tinnitus is worse at night when they’re trying to fall asleep in bed. This makes complete sense because there is a large discrepancy between the loudness of the Tinnitus and the quietness of the environment.
Figure 1: Increasing the background noise level reduces the contrast between the tinnitus and the background sound level.
Many different instruments can be used for sound therapy:
- White noise machine
- Tabletop sound generator (generates an array of noises such as birds chirping, waves crashing, and other nature sounds)
- Smartphone applications for Tinnitus (not ideal for users that have a hearing loss)
- Open fit hearing instruments (open ear canal allows for more natural sound to enter)
- A combination of a hearing aid and Tinnitus sound generator (to address both hearing loss and Tinnitus management)
- Wireless accessories (wireless stream numerous sound signals to the hearing aid)
In analyzing the types of sound that were most effective in masking Tinnitus, Searchfield and colleagues1 found that a rain sound signal was preferred over a white-noise sound signal. Some argue that more dynamic sounds, like a rain sound, are better at helping to mask tinnitus compared to less dynamic sounds like white noise.2 In addition, music was the least favored when it came to masking the tinnitus due to the cognitive stimulation and the attention it brings. However, when measuring these three sound signals in relation to decreasing tinnitus annoyance, music was preferred over white noise, with rain once again being the most preferred.3
Michael Piskosz discusses sound therapy in detail in his article “The Role of Wireless Streaming in Tinnitus Management“.
1 Searchfield GD, Cameron H, Irving S, Kobayashi K. Sound therapies and instrumentation for tinnitus management. N Z Med J. 2010;123(1311): 112-125.
2 Henry JA, Rheinsburg B, Zaugg TL. Comparison of custom sounds for achieving tinnitus relief. J Am Acad Audiol. 2004;15(8):585-598
3 Piskosz M, Kulkarni S. An innovative combination device to assist in tinnitus management. Hearing Review. 2010;17(11):26-30. Available at: www.hearingreview.com/issues/articles/2010-10_04.asp. Accessed January 20, 2012.