Tinnitus or “ringing” in the ears can be a complicated medical condition to treat given the numerous causes, types, and severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus may be very mild for one person and short-lived while tinnitus may be chronic and debilitating for another person. A variety of treatment options are used on a regular basis, including different variations of sound therapy.
Sound Shaping Maskers
One type of sound therapy is to mask the sound of the tinnitus as perceived by the patient. By actually changing the shape of certain sounds, a patient’s tinnitus may become less severe or eliminated completely. Such masking sounds could be broadband noise, sounds similar to that of tinnitus, music, sounds with certain frequencies eliminated, and other sounds thought to minimize the effects of tinnitus.
Some experts believe that changing the shape of certain sounds may help some patients find relief from tinnitus. However, this type of sound therapy may be limited for individuals whose tinnitus is not simply one tone. In other words, if a patient’s tinnitus is pulsatile, or rhythmic in nature, spectral shaping of certain sounds may prove to be ineffective.
Ear-Level and Bedside Maskers
Additionally, ear-level and bedside maskers have been used as a successful sound therapy treatment method for some patients suffering from tinnitus. These are devices that emit masking sounds that may provide immediate relief from tinnitus, and may be a short-term treatment method depending on the nature and severity of one’s tinnitus. Bedside maskers are particularly helpful when patients are unable to sleep at night, as many tinnitus sufferers experience the worst symptoms while trying to go to sleep.
Hearing aids are another type of sound therapy that have proven to be successful for some patients suffering from tinnitus and/or hearing loss. As with any treatment method, sound therapy will be catered to each particular patient’s tinnitus symptoms, so while music may be beneficial for one tinnitus patient, music may do nothing for a patient, and instead make his or her tinnitus worse. Sound therapy and other treatment methods for tinnitus will continue to develop as we learn more about the condition and why tinnitus therapy is not one size fits all.
The Importance of Using Sound Therapy Devices Properly
While ear-level maskers, bedside maskers, and hearing aids can be helpful to treat tinnitus, the devices must be used properly by the patient, as the patient may be alone when he or she uses the sound therapy device. To ensure that a patient will use a sound therapy device as intended, physicians must provide adequate instructions and counseling on how to use the device. If devices are used improperly (either because a physician gives the wrong instructions or the patient does not follow the instructions), tinnitus symptoms may not go away, rendering the device ineffective. It is particularly important that hearing aids are properly fitted to ensure they function as best as they can. If used properly, sound therapy devices can help many patients find relief from tinnitus.
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