It is now officially summer here. The weather has warmed up, and my sleep sound enrichment device has changed from an air purifier to a fan. How things have changed from years ago when I refused to use any sound at night. I knew sound enrichment – or audiotherapy – helped people cope better with tinnitus distress when used on a regular nightly basis. For the people who can’t fall asleep because of the sound of their tinnitus. For people with tinnitus who wake up feeling tired and not rested. Even though my tinnitus used to affect my sleep, I liked it quiet. And I was stubborn. Now I can’t sleep without it.
I won’t like the sound
At my clinic, I play white noise for people so they can hear what it sounds like. Most people like the sound. If not, find a different sleep sound (e.g. pink noise, classical music, audiobook, etc.). Keep in mind one of the advantages of white noise for sleep is that it is constant with no breaks or silent periods. Steady audiotherapy. But I often hear from people’s sleep partners: “There’s no way I’m having any sound in our bedroom” or There’s no way I’m listening to noise at night.” But it’s white. Bland. Neutral. It is the sound of waterfalls, showers, moving water. It is not like a vacuum cleaner or a blender. It is not an abrasive sound. And it is meant to be turned on at a soft comfortable background loudness. The goal is not to drown out tinnitus with a high volume sound. We’re not talking Niagara Falls. We’re talking a small creek cascading gently down a forest green mountainside. Would it help if we stopped calling it noise, and started calling it waterfall sound?
I won’t be able to sleep
Waterfall sound (alias white noise) is proven to help people sleep better. It is often marketed to parents for babies that won’t sleep at night. For adults, it helps cover up sleep sounds that you don’t want to hear…like snoring. Sleep sound helps people sleep soundly (Mayes, 2010). Many sleep partners are not supportive about sleep sound because they think it will stop them from sleeping. Usually they don’t even have a listen before refusing to have sleep sound in the bedroom. Why? Why when their loved one is distressed and needs it to cope better? Why can’t they even try having a soft gentle sound in the bedroom? There are sound pillows available that have a speaker inside so the person with their head on the pillow mainly hears the sleep sound. But the pillow styles are limited and comfort can be a problem. Sometimes people still need sound in the room along with the sound through the pillow so both ears get even audiotherapy. Unfortunately, I find people often don’t continue using sleep sound if their sleep partner refuses to hear any sleep sound and insists on a sound pillow for them.
Another possible options is using a tablet computer loaded with your preferred sleep sound that can play steadily through the night. The tablet computer could slip under the pillow making it easier to hear at a lower volume so less likely for sleep partner to be disturbed. Except as far as I know, tablet computers aren’t designed to be used under pillows. So I have a big fear about trying this. Because I have a surprisingly large head. No one-size-fits all hats for me. My hoard of hats is sadly limited due to size constraints when I find hats I like. I’m not good enough at physics to determine if adequate pillow dispersion of head weight happens sufficient to save a tablet under a pillow from my oversized noggin. Perhaps some other brave T soul will go where nobody has gone before, and attempt this experiment themself and share their results. Taking on the risk of a broken tablet for the betterment of the T sleep community. Anyone trying a tablet under their pillow does it at their own risk!
Tinnitus is literally “all in our head”. The most effective treatments need to enter our head through our ear holes. I encourage people with tinnitus who have sleep problems as well as their sleep partners to find a comfortable sound they can agree on and give sleep sound a chance.
Jan L. Mayes ©2010