Sound therapy, in general, refers to the use of external noise to alter a patient’s perception of or response to tinnitus. While sound therapies, like other tinnitus treatments, do not cure the ailment, they can greatly reduce the perceived load and intensity of tinnitus.
The four general mechanisms of action of sound-based therapies are as follows:
Masking: is the process of exposing the patient to an external noise strong enough to drown out the sound of their tinnitus partially or totally.
Distraction: the use of external sound to draw a patient’s attention away from the tinnitus sound.
Habituation: helping the patient’s brain redefine tinnitus as a trivial sound that can be ignored consciously.
Neuromodulation: the application of specific sound to alleviate the neuronal hyperactivity believed to be the cause of tinnitus. sound therapy
Common Sound Therapy Devices:
Sound Masking Devices: It’s usually white noise, pink noise, natural noises, or other faint sounds. Sound machines can partially or completely conceal a patient’s tinnitus, allowing them to relax and temporarily relieve their symptoms.
Simple table-top or bedside sound maskers with pre-set sound choices. However, personal media players, laptops, radios, and TVs can all be used to mask. Electric fans or table fountains can also hide noise. A patient’s favourable emotional responses are the most effective concealing sounds.
However, sound masking devices have limited long-term effectiveness in lowering overall perception of tinnitus.
Hearing Aids: Hearing aids can be classified as a form of sound treatment because they amplify external noise in order to increase auditory stimulation and shift attention away from tinnitus perception.
Modified-Sound/Notched-Music Devices: While commercial sound machines produce general sounds, medical instruments provide sounds tailored to the patient’s tinnitus. These devices play notched music or algorithmically manipulated sounds that highlight specific frequencies and tones – often at a level that the listener is unaware of.
Unlike typical white noise generators, notched music and customized sound devices are worn intermittently and may reduce tinnitus symptoms over time, even after being switched off. These products may help patients “tune out” tinnitus by promoting habituation.
In addition to using sound devices, optimal outcomes usually involve patient counselling and education.
Combination Devices: Many hearing aids now have sound generating technology that continuously sends white noise or tailored sounds to the patient. These devices combine the benefits of a hearing aid with other sound therapies, making them ideal for tinnitus sufferers with hearing loss. Also, due to their portability, these gadgets can be used semi-constantly throughout the day.