It’s likely that you notice your tinnitus more in quiet environments – for example, at night when you're trying to sleep. Sound therapy aims to make tinnitus less noticeable by filling the silence with neutral sounds to distract you from it.
Sound therapy can also help your brain to ‘filter out’ tinnitus over time, so that you’re no longer overly aware of it. This process is called habituation.
Your audiologist or tinnitus specialist may support you to use sound therapy, but it’s also something you can try without professional support.
You can use different things for sound therapy, including:
- everyday sounds
- wearable sound generators
- bedside or desktop sound generators
- sound pillows and pillow speakers (to help you sleep)
- CDs or tinnitus apps.
Simple sounds around the house or in the office can distract you from your tinnitus. You could try:
- the whirring of an electric fan
- the ticking of a clock
- leaving your radio or TV on low
- listening to music through headphones or earphones
- leaving a window open at night to hear noises from outside.
Wearable sound generators
These small devices look a bit like hearing aids and can be worn in, or behind, your ear. They are called white noise generators and produce constant white noise, which is a soft ‘shushing’ sound, like what you hear when a radio isn’t tuned to a station.
You might be able to get wearable sound generators free from the NHS if you find your tinnitus troublesome. Or you could buy them from a private hearing care provider. They must be fitted by a tinnitus specialist.
Bedside and desktop sound generators
These portable sound generators are often known as tinnitus relaxers. They produce a range of quiet, natural sounds, such as birdsong and falling raindrops, to create a peaceful atmosphere and distract you from your tinnitus.
There’s a range of different sound generators available – some are designed for use at night and have a timer so they switch off when you’re asleep, and some come with extra features to help you relax, such as aromatherapy fragrances and coloured lights.
Sound pillows and pillow speakers
These are designed to distract you from your tinnitus when you’re trying to sleep. A sound pillow is a pillow with built-in speakers, and pillow speakers fit inside a pillowcase.
You can connect sound pillows and pillow speakers to your tinnitus relaxer or music player. They are useful because they let you listen to sounds in bed without the discomfort of earphones or headphones. And if you have a partner, they let you listen to sounds in bed without disturbing them.
CDs and apps for sound therapy
You can buy CDs of relaxing music and natural sounds. You can also download apps (software applications for a smartphone or tablet) to help with tinnitus that come with a selection of sounds to distract you. Many of these are free. You can find these in the ‘app shop’ on your device if you search for ‘tinnitus’.
You may have heard about tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), which involves a combination of more intensive sound therapy and long-term counselling. You may be referred for TRT if other therapies don’t work.