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Origin, benefits, efficacy and methodology
For decades, sound has been used to treat tinnitus or ringing of ears. Sound therapies include using background sound, hearing aids, partial masking (that includes retraining therapy), total masking and music therapy. The role of sound therapy can be understood in terms of:
- Reducing the attention drawn toward the tinnitus
- Decreasing the loudness of the tinnitus
- Substituting an unpleasant sound (tinnitus) for a less disruptive sound (background sound)
- Providing the patient with control
What is Sound Therapy? Where did it originate?
Sound therapy is a treatment modality that uses filtered music to help the brain stay healthy. It provides relief from tinnitus or ringing of ears and other problems related to the ear. It is also said to improve the performance of the brain.
In the 1950s, Dr. Tomatis invented sound therapy that involved providing a physical stimulus to the brain and ears by the use of different frequencies of classical music. Due to his radical ideas, Dr. Tomatis was acclaimed by the French academies of Medicine and Science. Many of his theories have been tested and proven true at Sorbonne University. The following are the premises on which he built his theories:
- Efferent impulses activate the ear
- Sound can better ossicular performance
- High frequencies of sound can reactivate the cilia
- The appreciation of sound is increased with better ear function
- The right ear is responsible for language integration
How is it beneficial?
Here are some of the benefits to be gained from sound therapy:
- Improved hearing for people who have industrial deafness or hearing loss due to old age
- Freedom from ringing in the ears or tinnitus
- Less tiredness and stress
- Deep relaxation
- Increased creativity and mental capacity
- Deep and comforting sleep; no insomnia
- Vitality and a sense of well-being
- Relief from anxiety and depression
- Heightened energy, focus and performance
- Recovery from dizziness and vertigo
- Improved voice quality and vocal range
- Greater family harmony due to better communication
- Greater concentration and increased ability to learn
- Better behavior and communication in children
Studies or research on efficacy
Hazel et.al (1985) conducted large-scale experiments on total masking therapy and demonstrated its effectiveness.
- A study conducted by Warhurst and Kemp from the University of Sydney found that patients exposed to sound therapy showed improvements in heart-rate variability.
How is this therapy done?
Almost all sound therapies are performed along with some form of counseling. This counseling could involve just providing of information. Basic information about hearing loss, tinnitus, attention and habituation is included. Also, specific counseling is included on how to use the sound. This occurs during both the use of hearing aids as well as partial masking.
The areas that are usually covered in counseling along with sound therapy are:
- Principle behind the use of background sound
- The need to exercise caution about the use of intense noise generators, since they may interfere with speech and the everyday perception of sound
- Choosing the right type of noise generators
- Choosing the ear molds to use, if applicable
- Trial periods of the background sound being used
Total Masking Therapy
In total masking therapy, the patient does not hear any tinnitus. Many patients find this approach very useful, and it is obviously appealing to many people.
- The greatest benefit of this approach is that it provides the patient with control. Counseling has been found to be helpful with this approach. However, some patients may not like the noise that is generated while masking and still others may find it too loud.
- It is incorrect to say that total masking therapy provides only temporary relief and that the benefits can be availed only as long as the tinnitus remains.
- The best part about total masking therapy is the immense relief enjoyed by patients as soon as the tinnitus is completely eliminated.
Partial Masking Therapy
In partial masking therapy, the patient has control over the intensity of the masking noise. The masking noise is set in such a way that the patient can hear both the tinnitus as well as the noise.
- The noise becomes a distraction that takes away the focus from the tinnitus. Thus, patients can determine how loud a noise they can tolerate.
How can you get started with the therapy?
A portable mini player is used to play sounds that constantly alternate from high tone to low tone, within the structure of classical music.
Risks associated with Sound Therapy
Though not many major complications have been cited so far, loud sound can cause discomfort or sometimes ear problems during the course of the therapy. It would be advisable to discuss the side effects with the practitioner and reveal any pre-existing ear related complications that you may have prior to starting the procedure.
1. Tytler R. Tinnitus Treatment: Clinical Protocols. Thieme; 2011. 272 p.