Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears when there is no external noise source. It can sound like ringing, hissing, humming, buzzing, and clicking.
Tinnitus is a common, but incurable symptom for many people. It is often a symptom of an underlying condition such as age- or noise-related hearing loss or ear injury. It doesn’t always affect both ears, and there are many possible tinnitus causes.
Around 15-20% of people are affected by tinnitus to some capacity.
Tinnitus can become a chronic (long term) condition and last for years. It can also be situational, lasting for a few hours.
Although there is no cure, tinnitus maskers can be an effective tool to use to help you find relief. Many find them very effective in the management of tinnitus.
What is a Tinnitus Masking Device?
Many people who have tinnitus may not be able to identify the exact cause of their tinnitus.
There are many tinnitus treatments available, which can often depend on the cause.
Maskers are a type of sound therapy for tinnitus, and could be an effective way to help alleviate your symptoms in the long term.
Traditionally known as "white noise machines", they generate low level noise to drown out or mask the internal sounds of tinnitus. The aim is that you'll have an easier time relaxing, focusing, and coping with the ringing in your ears. This will overall help with the psychological, mental, and emotional effects of tinnitus.
If you want to see if a masker would be a good option for you, turn on your bathroom tap to full blast and see if the noise of the water drowns out your ringing.
If it does, a tinnitus masking device could be a great option.
Types of Tinnitus Maskers
There are different types of maskers.
It is recommended that you consult your doctor to determine the best plan for you. You can try out what noises best mask your tinnitus through trial and error.
Here are types we'll go through today:
- Hearing Aids
- Smartphone apps
- Sound generators
- Wearable sound generators
Tinnitus Masking Hearing Aids
Many hearing aids have tinnitus masking capabilities built in.
If you have tinnitus and hearing loss, this could be a great long term option for you as you don’t have to buy separate devices.
Instead can enjoy an all-in-one solution.
A 2007 study published in The Hearing Review suggested that 60% of tinnitus patients experienced at least some relief while wearing hearing aids and about a third of them found significant relief.
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Tinnitus Masker Apps
There are many useful tinnitus masker apps available for download on the Apple and Android Store.
This would be a good option for those who have a smartphone and want convenient access to sound therapy.
There are both free and paid options.
We've listed a few below:
- Oto provides a digital therapy programme of tinnitus CBT, targeted mindfulness, sound therapy and relaxation.
- T-Minus provides a comprehensive tinnitus sound therapy library. Users can choose, modify and combine sounds using a simple user interface to find a mask that works best for them.
- Quieten was inspired and created by Julian Cowan Hill’s work as one of the most experienced tinnitus therapists in the UK. The app hopes to teach individuals how to calm the ringing in your ears from Julian, who was able to improve his symptoms after suffering from tinnitus first hand.
Tabletop Sound Generators
These are devices that can be placed on bedside tables and other surfaces and generate ambient and white noise to help mask ringing.
These portable noise generators are often battery-powered or can be plugged into an electric socket.
Sleep timer options make it a good option for those who want to leave it on to fall asleep. They are readily available and can be purchased on Amazon.
Wearable Sound Generators
Wearable sound generators are similar to tabletop sound generators in function but they can be placed in the ear like a hearing aid.
They offer more subtle and constant white noise since they are in the ear and battery-powered.
This option can obstruct normal hearing ability like an ear bud and can cost around $250, but it’s a great option for those who want a masking device that can be easily integrated into their lifestyle.
Puretone has wearable sound generators for purchase on their site.
Which Masker Should I Use?
As evidenced, there are several different types of maskers that suit different needs better than others.
If you have persistent ringing that bothers you, often a trial and error approach works best.
Find out what works best for you, but we've found that a combination of sound therapy and digital cognitive behavioural therapy is an option to consider in coping with tinnitus.
This article was written by Chris Ellis, CEO of AudioCardio. AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness.Learn more about AudioCardio at www.audiocardio.com or find it on the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.