Tinnitus is common in Charleston and across the country. Characterized by a phantom noise in the ears—most often described as a ringing but also taking other forms including roaring, hissing, buzzing, whooshing or clicking—tinnitus has no cure, but there are strategies for managing the condition and reducing its impact on your life.
Using Sound Therapy to Manage Tinnitus
An estimated 50 million Americans report at least occasional tinnitus, making it one of the most common chronic health complaints in the United States.
How common is tinnitus in SC?
About one in every five people in South Carolina suffers from tinnitus to some degree; for some it’s an occasional nuisance, while others find it a full-fledged distraction that severely impacts their quality of life.
Can it cause other health problems?
Tinnitus can lead to memory and concentration difficulties and affect sleep. Anxiety and depression are common, and individuals with the most severe symptoms have a higher suicide risk.
Unfortunately, because of the highly variable nature of tinnitus (it’s a symptom rather than a disease, by the way, with causes ranging from disease and trauma to ear obstructions and sinus pressure), a cure has so far proven elusive.
How is tinnitus treated?
That doesn’t mean people with tinnitus in Charleston have no hope. One of the most successful approaches to managing symptoms involves tinnitus sound therapy.
Tinnitus treatment through desensitization
The concept behind sound therapy is simple: the brain is trained to ignore the ringing in your ears through a process called habituation, a psychological term meaning a decreased response to an external stimuli.
If you live on a busy street, at first the sound of traffic will bother you quite a bit. After you’ve been there for a while, your brain becomes used to the sound, and you no longer notice it as much. This is how tinnitus sound therapy works.
How does sound therapy work?
Introducing background sounds will help divert your brain’s attention from tinnitus, making it less bothersome.
A variety of methods and sounds are available, depending on the degree and severity of your symptoms.
White noise is popular and effective; it involves playing a neutral, relaxing sound, such as ocean waves, gently falling rain or soft music, to compensate for the ringing in your ears. You don’t even need fancy equipment; simply turning on an air conditioner or running a fan will produce the same effect. This is particularly useful at night, when you’re trying to sleep.
Christina Lobarinas, Au.D., tinnitus coordinator for the UT Southwestern Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Program, explains how this works.
“After a time, the tinnitus becomes associated with this sound. The brain says, ‘it’s constant, it’s meaningless, it’s not something I need to pay attention to.’ It’s essentially a passive form of extinguishing a response to a stimulus by moving it from a conscious to a subconscious level.”
You can try sound therapy out at home
Tinnitus sound therapy doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription or special device (though white noise machines are available). You can download a tinnitus app for your smartphone; plenty of great ones are available through the Apple Store and Google Play. There are a few tips for success:
- Avoid setting the volume too high. You don’t want to cover up the tinnitus sound, but rather, let your brain hear the tinnitus along with the therapeutic sound in order to help your brain adapt.
- Play the sound for a minimum of four hours each day and when you go to bed.
- If you have hearing aids (tinnitus and hearing loss are often, but not always, associated with each other), turning up the volume amplifies external sounds, giving your brain the auditory stimulus needed to reduce its perception of tinnitus.
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
If you’re suffering from tinnitus and looking for a solution, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist in Charleston to learn more about sound therapy and other methods of managing your distraction.
Learn more about Tinnitus:
Our NE South Carolina Area Audiologists Office Locations
5000 Epson Plantation Dr
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
2005 2nd Avenue
Summerville, SC 29486