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  • Writer's pictureWidex Emirates Hearing Care

How to Manage Tinnitus with Tinnitus Masking

tinnitus masking
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A range of technology innovations is now offered to all patients suffering from tinnitus from regular hearing aids to sound-generating masking devices.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, can lead to many emotional problems and affect our daily life.

Because it is incurable, the most effective way of treating tinnitus is through masking devices that block these ringing noises. They help to find relief and can be very effective in the management of tinnitus.

Have a look at some of the different types of these masking devices and how they can positively improve the symptoms for tinnitus sufferers.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be acknowledged as constant ringing of the ears, humming noises or buzzing sounds that can be uncomfortable, distracting or bothersome to some. It is the perception of noise in ears with no external noise source. It occurs when tiny hairs in the ear responsible for transmitting sound signals stop functioning properly.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Symptoms of tinnitus vary from one patient to another. The noise of tinnitus can change depending on the level of stress. It might be experienced in one ear or in both ears. There are four types of tinnitus: objective, subjective, neurological and somatic. There is no specific and exact cause of tinnitus.

The first signs showing the presence of tinnitus are:

  • Developing hearing loss

  • Hearing phantom sounds in one or both ears - because tiny hairs of the ear are damaged, you have the sense of hearing these phantom noises

  • Having a head injury

  • Developing an everyday medical condition such as ear infections

Tinnitus is usually experienced homogeneously with another underlying problem. Examples include:

  • Age

  • Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) - Exposure to loud noises for long periods of time

  • Ototoxic medications - taking certain medications that can have side effects

  • Ear injuries, infections and allergies

  • Stress

  • Tumors

  • Heart and thyroid problems

  • Jaw and neck illnesses

  • Excess wax buildup in the ear canal

  • Depression

  • Medical conditions in the brain

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

What are the effects of tinnitus?

Its impact on the quality of life usually ranges from mild to severe. It can be exceedingly annoying, sometimes making life miserable. Some effects include:

  • Constant ringing in the ears

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Difficulty focusing on tasks

  • Memory problems

  • High levels of stress and anxiety

  • Depression

  • Communication issues

  • Irritability

  • Suicidal attempts, thoughts or actions in utmost cases

What is a tinnitus masker?

All those suffering from tinnitus prefer the external and artificial sounds from tinnitus maskers to the constant ringing they experience.

Sometimes tinnitus can go away spontaneously without any treatment or intervention. In other times, treatment is mandatory. We should understand though that not all tinnitus can be reduced or destroyed.

tinnitus maskers
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Tinnitus Maskers

  • They are electronic hearing aid devices that generate “white noise” at low levels and are designed to mask the presence of tinnitus.

  • This white noise:

  1. covers the sound of tinnitus with a more pleasant sound

  2. is heard at a higher frequency than other types of noises. That is why we refer to tinnitus masking devices as “white noise machines”.

  3. is made up of 20,000 different tones ranging between 20 and 20,000 Hz.

  4. Helps in relaxing, sleeping, concentrating and increasing productivity

  • These small devices sit behind the ear with thin tubing and rubber tips which go inside the ear canals. They look very similar to hearing aids. Nevertheless, they produce a low-volume and pleasant stream of white noise instead of amplifying the external noise.

  • For individuals suffering from both tinnitus and hearing loss, the masker and hearing aid can function simultaneously as a one device.

  • A good way to check if the masking device works for you or suits you is to turn on your faucet and see if the running water drowns out or hides your tinnitus. If it does, then it is a good choice.

There are numerous tinnitus masking devices that help with tinnitus. They include ones behind the ear tinnitus maskers and ear canal tinnitus maskers. They are some sort of sound therapy for tinnitus. They help overcome the psychological, emotional and mental effects of tinnitus.

What are some tinnitus masking devices?

There are many different types of tinnitus masking devices. Many people find masking devices very helpful especially at night or in quiet environments because that is when tinnitus seems more dominant.

It is best recommended to consult your audiologist to determine the best plan. To know which type is best, you can go through trial and error.

  1. There are two kinds: one that plays a loop of white noise and one that generates sound.

  2. It is best used to keep tinnitus noises from interrupting sleep time.

  3. They block all other sounds in the background such as barking dogs, noisy neighbors, sirens, and many others.

  4. They help not only in getting to sleep, but also staying asleep.

  • Table-top sound generators

  1. From its name, these sound generators are designed to be put or placed on tables, shelves other surfaces.

  2. They can be out on beside units to ease the process of sleeping.

  3. They emit natural sounds like wind, birds, rainfall, ocean waves, forest life or heartbeats to distract the patient from the constant ringing they are hearing.

  4. They are either battery-powered or can be plugged into an electric socket. This means that they can be fully portable, and the users do not have to worry about running out of charge.

  5. A timer can be used and set to turn off low-level sounds once the patients has fallen asleep.

  6. It can be left on all night to distract the users from the ringing once they first wake up.

  • Wearable sound generators

  1. They function similarly to tabletop sound generators, but the difference is that these can be placed inside the ears.

  2. They can be placed behind the ear or inside the ear canal. They are very similar like a hearing aid.

  3. They are battery-powered, generating white noise to block out the ringing sounds.

  4. They offer a wide series of sound frequencies.

  5. They are relatively expensive because they can be worn constantly throughout the user’s everyday routine. They are meant to be comfortable and cosmetically appealing.

  1. They are small electronic devices worn inside or behind the ear.

  2. They increase the amount of sound stimuli received by the auditory system using a microphone, amplifier and speaker.

  3. They can help draw out the internal ringing triggered by tinnitus by allowing sound to blend in and cause less distraction.

  4. Since tinnitus is associated with some kind of hearing loss, hearing aids can help soothe some of tinnitus symptoms.

  5. They can relieve some of the anxiety and stress by making social interactions and conversations easier.

  6. Audiologists can fine-tune the noise to match and mask the sound of the ringing or buzzing. They can help choose the best and most suitable hearing aid that fit your lifestyle.

  7. There are special programs that pipe specific noise into the ears using built-in sound masking controlled using smartphone apps.

  • Tinnitus masker apps

  1. There are many apps that are available to download on the Apple App store ang Google Play Store.

  2. There are many different free and paid options that you choose from.

  3. They provide guided relaxation exercises, sound therapy libraries and other helpful features.

  4. Some examples include:

I. Oto: It uses tinnitus CBT techniques for sleep support and exercises that relax and stretch the neck, jaw, back and many more.

II. T-Minus: Users can modify and combine different sounds using simple user interface.

  • Tinnitus relief pillow

  1. It is a device designed to mask the sounds of tinnitus during the night.

  2. It can be used with all the tinnitus smartphone apps available for Android and iOS devices.

  • Environmental noise generators

  1. They are not wearable.

  2. They are used at times when tinnitus interferes with sleep, relaxation, or concentration.

  3. Sounds can be played through inbuilt speakers, with-pillow speakers, earphones, sleep headband and under-pillow speaker.

  4. They come with hundreds of sounds you can choose from.

Tinnitus can cause many emotional problems, insomnia, auditory problems, difficulty concentrating and long-term hearing loss.

There is no known cure yet for tinnitus. However, there are several types of tinnitus management techniques available that have proven successful for many tinnitus sufferers. They can help reclaim your life and all the sounds you love.

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