What is a tinnitus masker? The Oto Guide 2020

Chris Ellis
CEO of AudioCardio
November 1, 2020

What is Tinnitus? 

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. Tinnitus doesn’t always affect both ears. Although it is less common, unilateral tinnitus is when a person has tinnitus in only one ear. Most commonly, bilateral tinnitus is when a person experiences tinnitus in both ears.

Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears when there is no external noise source
Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears when there is no external noise source

Around 15-20% of people are affected by tinnitus to some capacity. Tinnitus can become a chronic condition and last for years. It can also be situational, lasting for a few hours. Though there is no cure for tinnitus, tinnitus maskers have become an increasingly effective way to cope with tinnitus. 

If you are able to identify the main cause or what aggravates your tinnitus, treating the underlying condition could also contribute to helping alleviate your tinnitus. Many people who have tinnitus may not be able to identify the exact cause of their tinnitus. You can read more about the causes of tinnitus here. Paying close attention to your diet, environment and surroundings when your tinnitus is bothersome can be a good way to see if you can isolate the issue. There are still treatments available to help distract and alleviate tinnitus. Tinnitus maskers are one way to help alleviate your symptoms.

What are Tinnitus Maskers? 

One of the most common tinnitus maskers is white noise
One of the most common tinnitus maskers is the sound of white noise

Tinnitus maskers generate low level noise to “drown out” or mask the sound of tinnitus. With tinnitus maskers, people who have tinnitus will have an easier time relaxing, focusing, and coping with their tinnitus ringing. This will overall help with the psychological, mental, and emotional effects of tinnitus.

If you have tinnitus and want to see if a tinnitus masker would be a good option for you, turn on your bathroom tap to full blast and see if that noise drowns out your ringing. If it does, a tinnitus masker could be a great option for you.

Types of Tinnitus Maskers

There are different types of tinnitus 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 of tinnitus maskers:

Hearing Aids

Many hearing aids have tinnitus masking capabilities built in. If you have hearing loss and tinnitus, this could be a great option for you as you don’t have to buy separate devices and 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.

6 Cutting Edge Bluetooth Hearing Aids

Hearing aids work well as tinnitus maskers
Hearing aids work well as tinnitus maskers

Apps

There are many white noise apps for masking and cognitive behavioural therapy available for download on the Apple and Android Store. There are free and paid options as well. This would be a good option for those who have a smartphone and want convenient access to a tinnitus masker. We've listed a few below:

  • Oto is a new app that helps people with tinnitus by bringing together all the therapies that the research has shown to be effective in tinnitus management. Oto provides users with a comprehensive tinnitus therapy programme that uses cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness therapy, physical therapy and relaxation. Users can access a curated library of masks specifically designed to help people with tinnitus relax and sleep. The public beta is currently available to download and test for free.
  • T-Minus is an app that 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 Quieten 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. 
There are many apps used as a tinnitus masker
There are many apps that can be used as a tinnitus masker

Tabletop Sound Generators

These tinnitus maskers are devices that can be placed on bedside tables and other surfaces and generate ambient and white noise to help mask ringing. These portable sound 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 tinnitus masker that can be easily integrated into their lifestyle. Puretone has wearable sound generators for purchase on their site.  

Which Tinnitus Masker Should I Use?

As evidenced, there are several different types of tinnitus 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 tinnitus masker 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.

 

References

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