As per the American Tinnitus Association, nearly 20 million Americans suffer from chronic tinnitus, with 10% of that number having extreme cases. Tinnitus is an audiological and neurological condition that causes people to hear whistling, ringing, buzzing, and hissing sounds when none of them are actually there.
At present, there is no known cure for tinnitus. There are, however, several approaches to tinnitus management such as sound therapy, which is very effective in helping bring relief to people suffering from the condition.
Let’s take an in-depth look into how sound therapy for tinnitus can help manage the condition.
What Is Sound Therapy
Sound therapy, otherwise known as acoustic therapy, involves the use of external noise to change a person’s understanding of and reaction to tinnitus.
For sound therapy to be effective, it generally uses a combination of four mechanisms of action. They include:
- Habituation: Conditioning the brain to classify tinnitus as an unnecessary sound that should be ignored.
- Distraction: Using sounds from external sources to divert a patient’s attention from the sounds associated with tinnitus.
- Neuromodulation: Using specific sounds to reduce the neural hyperactivity believed to be the cause of tinnitus.
- Masking: Exposing the patient to a particular noise at a volume that’s loud enough to partially or comprehensively cover the sound of tinnitus.
How Sound Therapy for Tinnitus Works
There are plenty of devices that provide differing levels of sound therapy. Sound masking devices, for example, provide some sort of generic background noise such as nature sounds or white noise. The noise produced by these devices can either partially or fully mask a patient’s tinnitus, providing temporary relief in the process.
The sound masking device can either be a radio, phone, computer, or media player that has been pre-set to play various sounds. The best masking device, however, can be the one that produces a positive emotional reaction from the patient.
If the tinnitus bothers the patient at night, they can install sound and sleep apps on their phones to help them get a good night’s sleep. There are plenty of free apps both on Android and the Apple App Store. Placing the smartphone by a bedside table to play certain sounds will help keep the tinnitus at bay.
Hearing aids can also be very effective in sound therapy. Loud hearing aids amplify external noises thus increasing audio stimuli, effectively distracting the patient, and masking the tinnitus.
The Bottom Line
An effective sound therapy treatment strategy depends on the patient and what triggers their tinnitus. The most ideal device will depend on the symptoms experienced by the patient. For instance, if the patient is sensitive to noises that other people aren’t such as a running shower or beeping sounds, certain devices may not work best for the patient.
It should be made clear that sound therapy is not a cure for tinnitus, but it will lower the intensity of the condition significantly. However, the combination of sound therapy with other forms of tinnitus therapy such as TRT (Tinnitus Retraining Therapy) can effectively treat the condition.