Accessible Tinnitus Mobile Wellness Apps

33% of Deaf people have tinnitus (T). Half of people with T have hearing loss. Any mobile coping apps for people with T distress must be accessible for people who can’t hear spoken instructions. Accessibility includes trained speakers with deep distinct speech, visual indicators, text-based or open captioning (subtitles on). Tinnitus scientists are developing mobile T apps to help lower distress and improve quality of life. These apps could also help people with hyperacusis (H), but the apps aren’t here yet. I’d like to see specific helpful app features included in accessible tinnitus mobile wellness app development.

Some hearing aid manufacturers have developed free mobile apps. There are also many mental wellness apps available online. Science proves people cope better when they’re given info on options for managing stress, anxiety, depression or anger from having chronic health conditions like tinnitus or chronic pain. People put on a treatment wait list don’t cope better. Using wellness apps helps tide people over until their appointment. They help motivate people to use techniques between appointments. Everyone, not just with chronic conditions, has better wellness with wellness apps.

Depending on the app, apps are available on iOS, Android, Google Play. Many apps use speech audio for information or instructions. Most use a soft unclear high-pitched female voice meant to be soothing. App speakers are not trained how to speak slow and distinct, with as little accent as possible, so people with hearing loss could understand the speech easier. App speakers now are difficult to understand for anyone with hearing loss, even mild.

  • Trained Speaker: needs clear, distinct, low pitched or bass speech
    I couldn’t find any app with a trained speaker. One app has option of male or female speaker which is a nice feature.

People can’t change how they’re feeling. But they can change how they’re thinking. Experts recommend approaches that help people learn how to cope better including less negative thinking and relaxation techniques. Peer support is useful because it helps people feel less alone.

  • Tinnitus Learning: text or open captioning
  • Cognitive Techniques: text or open captioning
  • Deep Breathing Exercise: visual indicator for inhale/exhale timing
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: text or open captioning
  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation: text or open captioning
  • Guided Imagery: text or open captioning
  • Peer Support Online: text

People with T have more insomnia than others. Some apps have specific sections to help people sleep better. People can also use general relaxation apps, e.g. deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation or mindfulness, guided imagery. Experts say mood trackers can be very helpful for people trying to cope better with anxiety, depression or other distress.

  • Sleep Techniques: text or open captioning
  • Sleep Sound
  • Sleep-Mood Tracker: text

Ambient or personal listening sound helps people cope better by making T less noticeable. This relaxation sound therapy helps lower hearing and emotion system hyperactivity causing T (or H). Sound and music are only accessible to people who can hear them.

Sound therapy use specific sound types for relaxation and sleep. T (and H) sound therapy has used coloured noise since the 1990s. Pink (more bass than white) and brown noise (more bass than pink) are more comfortable to listen to, especially for people with H. Many people relax, fall asleep or sleep using relaxing nature and environmental sounds or relaxation music. No percussion relaxation music has no drums, cymbals or other impact sounds. This music has steady constant volume so you can set volume and relax without having to zone back in to re-adjust the volume if it gets too loud.

  • Coloured Noise (White, Pink)
  • Coloured Noise (Brown)
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • No Percussion Relaxation Music
  • Sound Mixing and Sound Organizers or Libraries

Apps are under Medical or Health categories in app stores. Depending on the app, people can use them on different devices like phones, tablets or personal music players. App store descriptions list recommended age ranges. There are apps for children, teens, and adults. Many apps are translated into different languages; some are only available in certain countries.

Many apps are free. Some are free with extra features or upgrades to buy. Others get paid on a monthly, yearly or lifetime subscription. Watch out for apps that automatically renew subscriptions on the expiry date. When deciding on apps, check for good reviews, best-of lists, high user ratings, positive community feedback. I’ve included a few highly rated examples here.

Beltone Tinnitus Calmer iOS or Android

  • Tinnitus Learning
  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • Guided Imagery
  • Coloured Noise (White, Pink, Brown)
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • Sound Mixing and Sound Organizers or Libraries

Oticon Tinnitus Sound iOS or Android

  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Coloured Noise (White, Pink)
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • Sound Mixing and Sound Organizers or Libraries

 

Resound Tinnitus Relief

  • Tinnitus Learning
  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • Guided Imagery
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds

Starkey Relax

  • Tinnitus Learning
  • Coloured Noise (White, Pink)
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • Starkey Relief Sound

Widex ZEN Tinnitus Management

  • Tinnitus Learning
  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Guided Imagery
  • No Percussion Relaxation Music (fractal music)
  • Sleep Techniques and/or Sleep Sound

White Noise

  • 40 pre-recorded sounds with sound mixing choices
  • Coloured Noise (White, Pink, Brown)
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • Sleep Sound
  • Sound Mixing and Sound Organizers or Libraries

myNoise

  • Multiple soundscapes for concentration, relaxation, sleep
  • Listen from website and/or apps
  • Coloured Noise
  • Nature, Environmental Sounds
  • Sleep Sound
  • Sliders to custom mix each soundscape for loudness and listening comfort

Breathe2Relax iOS or Android

  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Developed by U.S. military for anxiety and PTSD
  • Fastest opening breathing exercise for anxiety or panic attacks

Pacifica

  • Cognitive Techniques (text based) under Thoughts
  • Deep Breathing Exercise
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • Sleep-Mood Tracker
  • Peer Support Online

Happify (games)

  • Cognitive Techniques
  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • I answered the Happify questionnaire with negative choices, e.g. chronic fatigue, pain,  social isolation, and loneliness. It said my top 3 strengths are lifelong learner, brave, and curious. I did an app on a different questionnaire. It told me I should seek professional counselling.
  • I have uncorrectable vision loss. I can’t play some of the games on my phone because the words on the balloons are too hard for me to read. I don’t score as high as I could. I’m going to load it on my tablet.

MindShift (for teens to adults)

  • Option to choose female or male voice for audio
  • Cognitive Techniques
  • Deep Breathing Exercises (no visual indicator)
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Sleep Techniques

Aura (3 minute meditations-open captioned)

  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • Only accessible meditation app I could find

Calm- Meditate, Sleep, Relax

  • Meditation or Mindful Meditation
  • Guided Imagery
  • Sleep Techniques and/or Sleep Sound
  • No Percussion Relaxation Music

Headspace

  • Guided Imagery
  • Sleep Techniques and/or Sleep Sound
  • Peer Support Online

Every app has different relaxation exercises, sound types, and features. For example, the deep breathing exercise on 1 app will be slightly different than deep breathing exercises on other apps. Some give you more control over settings, e.g. adjust deep breathing inhale/exhale length for your comfort under settings.

A campfire sound will be slightly different on one app than another. Some sounds are common, e.g. rain. Others are rare , e.g. cat purring. Some apps let you record the sound of your own cat purring. I think people will use more than 1 mobile app. Even when more T-H scientist developed wellness apps come out. I use 3 apps now.

I like quick to open and nice deep breathing app Breathe2Relax for anxiety or panic attacks. When I feel one start, it helps chanting “Breathe2Relax” in my head. I’m doing it before I get the app open. I like mental techniques better on one app and sound types better on another.  No judgment. In this moment, I don’t like mindful meditation. But no judgment. I check out app relaxation exercises. If they’re too mindful, I don’t use that bit of the app.

People should pick apps where they like the techniques and/or sound options. It’s personal preference. Science shows the more people use mental wellness techniques or sound therapy, the better the results, e.g. daily use for at least 3 months.

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Get medical clearance before trying apps. Don’t use apps outside their intended use or warnings, e.g. do not do techniques while driving. Stop if techniques make you feel strange or light-headed. Start at the lowest volume and gradually increase until the sound is softly comfortable. Check with your audiologist or tinnitus care provider for app recommendations or guidance.

It’s hard to find accessible apps. I hope when T-H scientists develop specific tinnitus wellness apps in the future, they’ll include a range of helpful app features in accessible mobile apps. Watch for independent scientist developed T (and H?) apps, coming in 2018-2019.

© 2018 Jan L. Mayes. Blog adapted from Tinnitus Toolbox-Hyperacusis Handbook (2018). On Sale February 2019.

Jan L. Mayes MSc Aud(C) RAud is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, audiologist, and hearing healthcare educator. She specializes in tinnitus, hyperacusis, noise-induced hearing system damage, and darkly disturbing, macabre horror fiction.

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Feature Photo by Robin Higgins on pixabay

4 thoughts on “Accessible Tinnitus Mobile Wellness Apps”

    1. You can get it through an audiologist who offers the Levo Tinnitus System. They have to be an authorized distributor for the company. Here’s a blog I did on it with more info on the Levo itself. https://76087358.ithemeshosting.com.php72-37.lan3-1.websitetestlink.com/levo-system-new-tinnitus-therapy/ I’ve also been running a community survey on the Levo since March. These are the results so far. Pretty interesting. https://76087358.ithemeshosting.com.php72-37.lan3-1.websitetestlink.com/levo-survey-says/

  1. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss in 2001. 100% loss of hearing in right ear. Severe tinnitus on right side ear area. Very high pitched loud as a smoke alarm 24/7. Quieter a bit in quiet environments. Hyperacusis also. Sometimes only two people talking at the same time in a room can bring on a severe, full feeling head, and I loose the ability to cope with the environment, and have to go to a quiet place. Sleeping is pretty decent as the noise quiets down some when I lay on my good ear which blocks out all sound. My question is do you recommend any sound generation techniques/apps for someone with 100% hearing loss in the tinnitus affected ear? Any white noise or nature sounds etc. apps I have tried so far are just annoying to me and my tinnitus gets worse very quickly when listening to them.
    I cope fairly well now after 17 years with T. I actually receive Canada disability pension (lots less then working but it helps) after several years of applying, trying different employment types, and paper trails etc. from my doctor. I avoid stress whenever possible and tend to avoid crowds most of the time. I can handle noise for a while like an hour church service, restaurant etc. and do well until suddenly my head goes south, I get overwhelmed and have to leave the situation.
    Sorry to ramble on however I have read quite a lot on your website and you have a great grasp of the scope of T & H and I would value your opinion particularly on 100% deafness in one ear T & H therapy, as I have found little information on such available so far. Thanks

    1. It’s a challenge since sound therapy works in hearing ears – not for total HL. If you used sound it would be for general relaxation. Some people like brown noise. This is a nice sound generator site I just found with many different relaxing options https://mynoise.net/noiseMachines.php
      This is some recent science on cochlear implant for a person with unilateral HL and severe T-H. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29929187 My understanding is it’s hard to get into cochlear implant programs if you still have hearing.
      The Silverstein Institute in Sarasota Florida is doing inner ear round/oval window reinforcement surgery, and that’s helped a few people with H but it’s still in clinical trials.
      Otherwise, mind therapy techniques are most helpful but don’t change T-H, just reactions to them. e.g. cognitive techniques, deep breathing, relaxation exercises.
      I’m glad you’re coping fairly well now. Thank you for taking the time to comment. 🙂

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