Sound therapy for tinnitus

If you’re suffering from tinnitus, you may already know that in most cases, the condition can’t be cured. While this might seem like a bleak diagnosis, many people live normal lives with tinnitus. Coping mechanisms can offer relief from the constant ringing and make it easier to ignore the symptoms. 

A popular symptom-reduction approach is sound therapy.

Sound therapy for tinnitus helps with habituation (getting used to the tinnitus symptoms), reducing intrusiveness, and can potentially trigger neuroplasticity, according to the British Tinnitus Association. The following options are available:

Sound machines

Morn, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Classic white-noise machines are radio-sized devices that play some kind of white or pink noise. Most modern machines have a variety of options to choose from.

Additionally, personal devices capable of playing sound, like smartphones, tablets, and computers, can be used. Noise apps and YouTube offer an unlimited number of white noise, ambient music and nature sounds.

Other devices generating sound, such as TVs, radios, and fans can offer relief, as well. This type of sound therapy typically has no lasting effect and only offers relief in the moment.

Hearing aids

Hearing loss is a common reason for developing tinnitus. People who experience both hearing loss and tinnitus often find relief from the noise in their ears once they start wearing hearing aids.

Hearing aids amplify the sound around the wearer, making it easier to drown out tinnitus and stop noticing it. 

Hearing loss is often caused by exposure to loud sounds over a period of time. If you’re already suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus, there are steps you can take to prevent further damage.

Wearable sound generators

Similar to white-noise machines, wearable sound generators produce a constant sound similar to static sound. They look like small hearing aids and can be worn in or behind the ear.

Many modern hearing aids are a hybrid between the classic hearing aid and wearable sound generator and can do both at the same time. No matter the type, wearable sound generators should always be fitted by a hearing professional as part of a larger tinnitus treatment.

Notched noise therapy

Similar to white-noise machines, notched music devices produce sound and are used as part of tinnitus therapies.

Unlike white-noise machines, notched music devices play individualized, algorithmically modified frequencies. This type of tinnitus therapy is still new, but early results seem promising. The Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development is in the process of conducting a clinical trial to assess the effectiveness of notches noise therapy.

If you’re unsure if sound therapy for tinnitus is right for you, it’s easy to give it a try: Just find a video of soothing sounds (for example, YouTube has several eight-hour-long videos of different ocean sounds) and play it on your phone’s speakers overnight and see if you sleep better.

While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, scientists are continuing to study the condition. New research indicates bimodal stimulation is the most effective treatment for Tinnitus and the only one delivering lasting results for more than 8 in 10 patients. . You can read a first-hand account of this approach here: Finding relief with the Neosensory Tinnitus Program: A personal story