Hearing Pros Speak – Tuning Out Tinnitus

Marcia Dewey, Au.D., CCC/A, is a Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Program Team Leader at Froedtert Health & The Medical College of Wisconsin. She sees a lot of patients with Tinnitus.  We talked to her about her experiences treating Tinnitus patients with sound therapy to get feedback on what tends to be most effective.

“We find that most patients tend to prefer pink noise rather than white noise,” says Dewey.  “Pink noise cuts out higher frequencies and makes the Tinnitus more acceptable to patients, particularly those with hyperacusis.”

The most beneficial sound therapy is when the patient can pick a sound they really like.  Nature sounds tend to be one of the best sounds because they are soothing.  The audiologist mixes these customized sounds for the patients.  The idea behind sound therapy is to habituate the brain to the Tinnitus.  Therefore, the patient should pick a sound that is easiest for them to habituate to. “For example, in our daily lives, the sound of a fan or refrigerator running doesn’t typically bother us,” says Dewey, “we don’t tune into it; we tune it out. This is the goal with sound therapy – to tune out the Tinnitus.

“I had one patient with hyperacusis who had been to another practitioner and wasn’t using the Tinnitus Sound Generator correctly. He had been told to use it all night and turn it up so loud that it would drown out the Tinnitus,” says Dewey. “This approach wasn’t working for him; the sound was bothering him and preventing him from sleeping.  If you turn the TSG up too loud, the Tinnitus will come right through the loud noise.”

Dewey helped the patient use the Tinnitus Sound Generator correctly.  She converted the sound to pink noise and turned down the volume. She also advised him to use it a minimum of 2 – 4 hours per day.  The 2 – 4 hour time period is ideal because less than 2 hours does not provide long-term benefit. Gains will be seen more quickly with use of up to 4 hours daily. Many patients use the sound generator for much more than 4 hours a day because of the relief they find while using it. With consistent and continued use within the 2-4 hour daily range, significant reduction in Tinnitus disturbance is typically seen by 3 months and improvements continue for 6-9 months.

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