The Excellent News for Tinnitus Patients about Music Therapy

Sound is an essential part of our lives, but like most things, its effect on us is determined by both the quality and quantity of the sounds we hear. Most of us, as an example, enjoy listening to music. However, if we are at a loud rock concert or are listening to the music on headphones turned up to an ear-splitting volume, the exact same music can cause anxiety and stress.

Everyone has a different taste in music, so the quality of a musical work is always subjective. On the other hand, the quantity as measured duration and decibel level is very objective and readily quantified. We know that when we have been subjected to very loud music or sounds above a specific decibel level for prolonged periods of time, those sounds can damage the miniature hair cells in our ears, and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). As a result of being exposed to these loud sounds, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans have developed some degree of tinnitus (continuously hearing a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears). Even quiet sounds under 10 decibels (half the volume of a whisper) may cause anxiety and stress if you are exposed to them long enough; have you ever been kept awake at night by the sound of a ticking clock, or a dripping faucet?

But interestingly enough, sound can also be used for beneficial purposes, and even to treat some of the effects of hearing loss. Many individuals have experienced the soothing effects of soft music, the relaxing sound of surf or falling water, or the meditative sounds of chanting or Tibetan singing bowls. These sorts of sounds are increasingly being used to treat anxiety rather than create it, and are similarly being used by hearing specialists to treat tinnitus rather than cause it. Music therapy has been used to hasten recovery in hospitals, to facilitate rehabilitation among stroke victims, and as a successful treatment to slow the advance of Alzheimer’s dementia. People have successfully used white noise generators (which create a blend of frequencies similar to the sound of ocean surf) to help people overcome insomnia and sleep disorders, and to lower their perceived awareness of background sounds in noisy environments.

And in the field of treating hearing loss, sound therapy and music therapy is increasingly being used to treat tinnitus, and to teach those who suffer from it to psychologically mask the constant buzzing or ringing sounds they hear. Using music therapy, audiologists have been able to help tinnitus sufferers to retrain their minds, to focus less on the continuous buzzing, and to focus more on the sounds in the foreground they want to hear, and which are more enjoyable. This therapy doesn’t actually make the buzzing sounds disappear, but it does allow people to no longer experience anxiety and stress as a result of hearing these sounds, and to focus their attention on the sounds they want to hear.

So if you or a friend has tinnitus, give us a call and arrange an appointment so that we can discuss treatment options, which may include music therapy, with you.