Tinnitus has existed since the ancient times. The Egyptians have described it as a “bewitched ear” and the Mesopotamians have called it as a “humming in the ears”. Other cultures such as the Romans, Assyrians, and Welsh have all described tinnitus and its treatment has been recorded on papyrus and even clay tablets. The modern definition of tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external audible sound is made. Typically known as ringing of the ears, it can also sound like:
- And even sometimes, musical (rare).
Today, as many as 10-15% of the world population is affected, as many as 50 million Americans, and as many as 37% of children 6-12 years of age. Some of the major risk factors for tinnitus includes:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Head or neck injuries
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- Ingestion of ototoxic medication
- Cardiovascular disease
Many patients who have tinnitus can adapt to the annoying sounds they perceive. Tinnitus can be continuous, intermittent, or pulsatile. Unfortunately, a small group of patients have severe and incapacitating symptoms that stops them from having a normal life. Other symptoms of tinnitus include:
- Poor concentration
- Disrupted work and school performance.
Other Natural Treatment Options For Tinnitus
For children that are affected, they are much more at a disadvantage as there is lack of information and support for the treatment and management of tinnitus. They often become scared and feel isolated as they hear noises that no one else can seem to hear. Unlike the ancient times, there are now many treatment options that may be effective for tinnitus. However, since tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying disorder and not a disease, the treatment for tinnitus can vary from person to person. A treatment that is effective for one patient may not be effective for another. In the majority of cases, since the underlying disorder causing tinnitus cannot be identified or addressed directly, the treatment and management of tinnitus falls under symptomatic relief or care. This means that tinnitus treatment options are directed to reduce the burden of tinnitus and improve functionality and quality of life for the patient. Some of the better-known options are:
- Counseling – patients need reassurance that their tinnitus is not a symptom of a serious condition such as brain tumor. New patients with tinnitus should first schedule a visit with their doctor to rule our serious underlying disorders.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) – this is a method used to retrain your brain to respond to tinnitus by tuning it out and eventually becoming less aware of it. It should be performed by a professional and involves long-term counseling.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – this technique helps tinnitus patients to cope with their anxiety and depression by changing how they perceive tinnitus, so they can be more relaxed and are better adapted to the noises they hear.
Sound Therapy as A Treatment Option For Tinnitus
Another important treatment option is sound therapy or also known as sound enrichment. If you suffer from tinnitus, have you ever noticed that your tinnitus gets much more noticeable especially when you are in a quiet room or environment? Sound therapy is used to ensure that the sounds available helps fill the quietness with neutral sounds to distract you from your tinnitus. One of the earliest known version of sound therapy was by a physician called Spaulding who in 1903, used a piano to match the frequency of the tinnitus of his patients. He subsequently continued to play that frequency repeatedly until it no longer was audible to his patients.
While some argue that the sound of enrichment can lead to actual physiological changes in specific parts of the brain, there are others who think that it is merely a psychological distraction or as a means of relaxation. However, it may be a combination of both factors. What is clear is that tinnitus patients who uses sound therapy are able to benefit from it some way or another.
One of the simplest ways that sound therapy can work is by simply opening a window, so you can hear the sounds outside. If you live in the countryside, you would be fortunate as you would most likely hear the breeze and birds. In the city, you would be surprised that many city folks find the hustle and bustle of the city to be comforting. In sound therapy, you are encouraged to listen to the sounds you never used to take much notice of. For example, the sound of the rain or waves if you are fortunate to live near the ocean.
Other Sound Options For Tinnitus Relief
If opening the window is not an option, you can leave the radio or television on in the background or listen to soothing sounds that you can download from a soundscape app. Many of these apps are now free and easily downloaded on your phone or tablet. There are also tinnitus organizations such as the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) and Hearing Link that have online shops where they sell products that provide pre-downloaded sounds that can be beneficial for patients with tinnitus as a form of sound therapy. The sound generators can play natural sounds such as rain, waves, or white noise (continuous shushing sound) that can be both be comforting and soothing. The profits made from the sale will go on to fund their work towards helping other patients with tinnitus.
This technique can be used as a self-help method or as part of a more extensive tinnitus management program provided by professionals in the hospital or clinic. However, since it is readily accessible, it is one of the easiest methods you can use if you are not in current need of professional help or have limited access to it.
Conclusion Sound Therapy And Tinnitus
Many patients find that sound therapy can be effective to reduce their severity of tinnitus and eventually rely less on it as they start adapting and habituating to their tinnitus. Sound generators and apps may no longer be needed once a stable sleeping pattern has been established. Patients can be gradually weaned from sound therapy if they choose to no longer need it.