Here we have tried to explain (in some detail) how we may be able to help you using sound therapy
What is sound therapy?
Tinnitus sufferers often notice their tinnitus is more bothersome in a quiet environment (for example when relaxing or trying to sleep) they can find listening to other sounds can make it less intrusive. The use of any sound to reduce awareness or alleviate the distress associated with tinnitus can be classed as sound therapy. Sound therapy is also often used in the treatment of hyperacusis (over- sensitivity to noise).
No one knows exactly how sound therapy works. Some theories say it brings about actual changes in sensitivity in the hearing parts of the brain, other theories think it acts as a distraction (maybe psychological) or an aid to relaxation. We feel it is most probably a combination of all of these things. Most tinnitus sufferers use some kind of sound therapy.
Sound therapy can be used as a self- help technique or as part of a broader tinnitus management program. A lot of research has found it plays a less important part than counselling in reducing the effects of people’s tinnitus, so it is perhaps best to regard it as one tool amongst several you might use. Although sound therapy is something you can do for yourself, if you are still troubled by your tinnitus you may find having professional tinnitus counselling beneficial.
Types of sound therapy
Many people find that some general background sounds, for example distant traffic, the hubbub of a busy office, wind in the trees, or waves breaking on the seashore make tinnitus less noticeable. This is why tinnitus if often less or not noticeable during the day, as there are so many other sounds going on around you. Sound therapy can help to fill the gap when you are in a quiet/silent situation
Sound therapy can be provided by a number of different devices, you’re your radio, through to bedside/table-top sound generators, by wearing sound generators or using other specialist devices.
The type of sound therapy suitable for you depends on your circumstances and your preferences.
It is best to choose a sound that doesn’t draw too much attention and is not unpleasant listening.
If you have hearing loss, hearing aids are most likely to help you. Having a full tinnitus assessment will show whether you have a hearing loss. Using hearing aids help you to hear the everyday environmental sounds that we can take for granted. Hearing these sounds will help to distract away from your tinnitus.
We find a large number of people have been using hearing aids for a number of years, but if they are not sufficient in terms of the hearing prescription then you are missing out on vital sound (For your hearing & tinnitus). We can assess if your current hearing aid(s) are on the most suitable settings.
Most people find they hear their tinnitus less when their hearing aids are switched on.
Hearing aids can also be used with CDs and tapes, or bedside sound generators.
Wearable sound generators (also known as white noise generators, or maskers)
These are worn in the ears, and produce a constant noise (Usually white noise, a gentle rushing sound), they look not too different from a hearing aid.
These can play a part of many types of tinnitus therapy. They should always be fitted by a tinnitus specialist as part of a tinnitus management program. They look not too dissimilar from small hearing aids, they can be worn in the ear, or behind the ear. It is very important that when they are worn you do not feel that the sound generator blocks your natural hearing.
Bedside/table-top sound generators
These portable machines sit on the bedside/table-top and provide a choice of soothing sounds at the touch of a button. You can adjust the volume to suit your hearing.
Having a pleasant, relaxing sound can help at night if you are having difficulty getting to sleep. It’s important that the level of the sound is just below the level of your tinnitus, if you overpower or “mask” it the tinnitus can start to fight to be heard! Also leaving the sound on all night helps to provide a soothing distraction when you wake up in the early hours, when your surroundings are otherwise quiet.
Most sound generators, CD players, mp3 players & radios etc can be plugged into a pillow speaker or sound pillow, making the sound less audible to your partner. These are fairly inexpensive, although you may want to try a pair of headphones placed under your pillow which can do the job just as effectively.
How to use sound therapy
The aim of tinnitus therapy is to enable people to forget or habituate to their tinnitus, so that it is ‘filtered out’ most of the time by the brain. Sound therapy doesn’t cure the tinnitus, but helps your reduce your perception of it.
The single most important part of habituation is to use sound therapy at a level that is just below your tinnitus most of the time. Some people use masking (loud noise which drowns out the tinnitus) to give themselves short term relief, this is an older approach and it’s shown not to encourage habituation, and sometimes the tinnitus can start to fight (& get louder) to be heard. Your brain is best to hear both your tinnitus and the sound therapy noise, this way your brain will start to listen to the sound therapy and forget/ignore your tinnitus – This is what we refer to as habituation.
How long should I use sound therapy for?
Sound therapy is useful whilst your tinnitus is intrusive, normally at the start. But it becomes less important as you start to habituate to your tinnitus. Generally most people only use sound therapy until they feel they can manage their tinnitus better, and bedside sound generators may no longer be necessary once a better sleeping pattern has been established. It is worth noting that any life changing circumstances can/could set you back a few steps, so it’s well worth storing your equipment somewhere safe in case it’s ever needed in the future.
How do I get sound therapy?
You can try bedside noise generators and or relaxation CD’s which can be purchased for many on line retailers, or they can be purchased from your Audiologist as part of a rehabilitation program.
Wearable sound generators and bedside sound generators may be provided by your Audiology Clinic, however, provision of equipment within the NHS varies from clinic to clinic. Tinnitus management is also available in the private sector, in which case sound generators, associated equipment and superior solutions can be purchased directly from your Audiologist. Tinnitus therapy is not as heavily regulated as say Hearing Aids, we have had many clients who have spent hundreds if not thousands of pounds on solutions that have little or scientific research. It’s always best to check the qualifications of any professional you go to see.