Sound therapy or ‘sound enrichment’ is an important part of tinnitus management. It fills quiet environments with soothing sounds to distract you from listening to your tinnitus – and help you to relax. There are a variety of products and apps designed for this purpose.
You might want to try listening to ‘natural’ recorded sounds such as waves gently lapping the seashore, the delicate trickle of a woodland stream, or something more vigorous, such as a waterfall or fountain. White noise can also help, which is an electronically generated whooshing or hissing sound.
Sound relaxers and tinnitus maskers
A sound relaxer (sometimes called a tinnitus masker) is a portable, desktop device that plays a range of soothing sounds through a built-in speaker. There is a volume control, so you can adjust the sound to a comfortable level. Other features may include a sleep timer, so you can set the sound to stop after a pre-set time (usually 30, 60 or 90 minutes). If there is a headphone socket, you can use the sound relaxer with headphones or an under-pillow speaker. The more expensive and sophisticated sound relaxers offer a greater range of sounds, better sound quality and, with some, the option to do your own sound mix! Some models also come with an alarm clock or radio.
Behind-the ear tinnitus maskers
You can also get tinnitus maskers that fit behind, and in, the ear like a hearing aid. They play soft rushing sounds, similar to the sound of a TV or radio station that has no signal. You may be offered this type of tinnitus masker from the NHS, depending on what’s available from your NHS service and what’s most appropriate for your needs.
CDs and DVDs
There’s a wide choice of relaxation CDs on the market. Some of these are specially produced for people with tinnitus. You can either buy a CD, or download the album or audio track to play on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Relaxation DVDs provide a relaxing visual experience as well as soothing sounds.
There are many sound relaxation apps to help with tinnitus. You can find these in online ‘app stores’, which you then download to a smartphone or tablet (including iPhones and iPads). Some apps are free. Tinnitus apps have similar features to sound relaxers and often come with a selection of sounds and have sleep timers. You can play the sounds through Bluetooth wireless headphones or speakers; the sound quality is often better than the sound on a smartphone or tablet.
A number of companies offer software for laptops and desktop computers that provides different soothing sounds such as white noise and ‘nature’ sounds. While this software is mostly used by therapists, some is suitable for you to use at home. The software can be comprehensive and allows you to mix many sounds together that can be recorded and transferred to a blank CD or USB stick, to play another device.