Tinnitus is a sound only heard by the individual experiencing it and is commonly described as a ringing, buzzing or humming in the ear.
People who experience tinnitus become more aware of it in quieter environments and during moments of downtime, such as bed time. The awareness of ringing in the brain can lead to an inability to relax or sleep which in turn promotes stress and high levels of anxiety at a time when rest is needed the most. Some people find that focusing their attention on external sounds helps them hear the tinnitus less.
The use of sound to reduce the awareness of tinnitus and the associated stress is known as sound enrichment. Sound enrichment is available in many forms and it could be as simple as putting the radio on in the background and focusing on the natural environmental soundscape or it could entail listening to sounds designed to promote relaxation, listening to sound delivered to the brain by hearing aid technology or using music designed specifically for the management of tinnitus and hyperacusis. Various apps and devices designed to promote relaxation and good quality restful sleep are currently available.
Sound enrichment is sometimes used as part of a treatment plan for managing the effects of tinnitus and hyperacusis. It is an effective way of reducing stress and the cognitive load on the brain and as Audiologists, we can advise on the options that are most suited for the individual and collaborate with the patient to create a customised sound therapy plan.
Types of sound enrichment
Types of sound enrichment
Sound enrichment can be provided by:
- environmental sound (such as having a window open)
- a CD, mp3 download or the radio
- a smartphone App
- table-top sound generators
- wearable sound generators
- cognition friendly daily wear hearing solutions
- extended wear hearing solutions like the Lyric
How does it work?
How does it work?
A recent study carried in Japan studied the effectiveness of sound enrichment therapy or tinnitus retraining therapy. For the study, they used fractal music; music with sounds resembling organs or wind chimes that follow a series of small patterns which are predictable without being monotonous.
“The cycle of the treatment with fractal music leads people to become conscious of the tinnitus first, and then conscious of the fractal music, which makes them feel relaxed, relieved and comfortable in the end,” says Dr Yoshimasa Sekiya, one of the study’s leads investigators.
As a result of this research, Danish hearing and tinnitus technology developer Widex were able to produce a sound enrichment app, ZEN, which offers music and sounds shown to help with the management of tinnitus and thereby reduce tinnitus-related stress. The ZEN app includes a wide range of relaxing and soothing sounds including relaxation and sleep exercises that can be used as part of a wider audiological treatment plan.
Additional ways to manage tinnitus at Cubex
Talking to us about your tinnitus can help you develop an understanding and awareness about how you perceive the tinnitus. Talking therapy techniques focus on changing how you respond to tinnitus and teach you to change the way you think about it, how you act and the amount of attention that you give to it. Techniques such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy can be used in isolation or in combination with sound therapy.
Mindfulness and Meditation
It is an often occurrence that a persons reaction to tinnitus may leave them feeling stressed, anxious and upset. Repeated experiences of stress are actually damaging for the brains health and halt the birth of new neurons. Fortunately, our brains have the remarkable ability to change and form new healthy neural connections, we call this neuroplasticity. Mindfulness and meditation is an act and lifestyle practice that promotes the relaxation response in the brain. It has the potential to encourage new neural network connections and reduce the levels of anxiety and stress that are usually associated with tinnitus.
Giving yourself the opportunity to access moments of relaxation is essential for helping to reduce the harmful effects of stress on the brain. Techniques can include focused breathing exercises, sleep hygiene, muscle relaxation, use of yoga techniques to name a few.
Hearing loss correction
High fidelity sound delivered to the brain by hearing aids can be very helpful if you also experience hearing loss. The sound delivered to your brain by the device can help to mask the tinnitus. In addition, appropriately personalised hearing aids can help to reduce the amount listening effort required by the brain make sense of sound. This can help in reducing cognitive load allowing more space for relaxation.
At Cubex, our Audiologists are mindful of the fact that tinnitus has different causes and each individual’s experience of tinnitus will vary significantly, so management plans will differ for each and every patient. Treatment plans are designed with the patient once the initial 2 hour consultation is completed and can include a combination of the strategies described in this article.
If you would like to book an initial consultation with one of our Audiologists, please get in touch.Book an appointment >