When I go into on-line tinnitus world, I see a lot of people who scoff at using sound as a treatment for their tinnitus. Comments like “why would I want more sound?” are common. I’m embarrassed to say that I used to be a member of the “I like it quiet” club. Years ago, it was “no more sound for me, thank-you very much!” Even when I started seeing research on new sound-based tinnitus treatments that I told my clients about, I was talking the talk but not walking the walk. Then I had no choice. I was having problems breathing, and my asthma doctor ordered me to use an air purifier at night. All night long. It was no longer a question of whether I liked it quiet or not. It was a question of whether I liked to breathe or not. And so I began using sound enrichment.
This was definitely a turning point for me. After months of using sound every day and night, I began coping better. I would never have believed it after over a decade of suffering with my T. But it helped. Some people use a light analogy when talking about using sound for T. For example, a light turned on in a dark room seems much brighter than the same light turned on in a sunny room. T in a quiet room seems much more noticeable than the same T in a room filled with gentle sound.
I call it sound enrichment because I am enriching my ears with sound. But it is also called sound therapy or audiotherapy. Think of it like physiotherapy. If you hurt your knee, you exercise your knee to get better. Avoiding exercise won’t improve your limp. If your hearing system is overactive or ‘flared up’, then you need to exercise it to help it settle down. Avoiding sound won’t improve your T (or your Sound Sensitivity). Do I like going to physiotherapy and doing their exercises? No. It’s uncomfortable. I wish I didn’t have to do it. A lot of people feel that way about using sound for their T or SS. But it helps people cope better if they use an effective sound regularly over time.
I know people who quit using sound after a few days or weeks and then say it didn’t help them. You need to use effective sound for at least 3 to 6 months to start noticing a difference in how you’re coping. Sound enrichment isn’t a quick fix band-aid solution. Sound enrichment is a way of caring for your tinnitus over time. I also know people who can’t use sound at night because their sleep partner complains. A pillow speaker can help with this. Sometimes the sleep partner still complains. This breaks my heart. Can’t you find a sound you both think is ok? When there’s something that can help you with T or SS and you can’t take advantage of it because somebody close to you doesn’t like it, then what do you do? So far, I haven’t come up with an answer for this. When I talk to a loved one who lives with somebody who is distressed by T or SS, and the loved one says “I’ll do anything to help them”, it gives me great hope.
If you have T or SS, try to leave the ‘I like it quiet’ club. Over time the sound enrichment club can do a lot more for reducing overactivity in the hearing system and improving your coping and sense of well-being.
If you know or love somebody with T or SS, there is so much you can do to support them. Be kind about having gentle sound on in the background even at night if necessary. It is part of an effective care plan.
P.S. (Nov/12). I tried my tablet computer underneath my pillow playing sound and it sounded close and clear. Plus the pillow muffled the sound for my sleep partner. So this might be another sleep sound enrichment option – EXCEPT – as far as I know tablet computers are not designed to be used under pillows. I’m worried my overly big head will break my tablet even with physics of pillow head weight dispersion. You may break your tablet too if you try this. Especially if you have a big head. So do at your own risk!
Jan L. Mayes ©2010