Tinnitus is an issue experienced by millions of people at some point in their life and, though it is not that well understood and there is no cure, we are starting to find therapies and devices which can help.
There is a theory that every tinnitus patient suffers from some degree of hearing loss. How true that it remains to be seen considering the fact that no two tinnitus patients are alike. What is a fact, however, is that hearing loss tends to cause tinnitus in some patients. It is also true that loud noises can cause tinnitus or, at the very least, exacerbate what was a minor case of tinnitus into a fully-fledged case of ear ringing.
What Is Tinnitus?
To understand the need for a tinnitus masking device, you first need to understand how tinnitus works. Tinnitus is a condition where the patient hears a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound in their ears. If you have ever attended a concert or loud event then you may have left with ringing in your ears. Imagine this sensation—but permanent.
The unnerving aspect of this ailment is that in many cases, no one else can hear this noise. Only in the case of a patient suffering from a form called ‘Objective Tinnitus’ can a doctor hear the sound as well if they listen very closely for it.
The thing is, tinnitus isn’t exactly linked to any psychological issues you may be experiencing. So, as much as the noise is in the patient’s ears and head, it isn’t usually a symptom of any other mental health issue.
The problem is that in a severe tinnitus case, the patient may hear the hissing, buzzing or ringing in their ear 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with little to no relief at all. As the sound is in your ear, there is no earplugthat can block it out. Imagine how frustrating that can be, especially if the noise they hear is particularly annoying!
Tinnitus masking devices are the closest we have to something that can drown out the sound and have been designed to help provide tinnitus relief. The best devices emit a more pleasant sound at the same frequency as the patient’s tinnitus. These devices typically come in the form of hearing aids for tinnitus treatment.
Tinnitus Masking Devices Are not a Cure
It should be stated that tinnitus has no cure. In fact, it isn’t even considered a disease even though over 50 million Americans and scores more the world over suffer from it.
It is, therefore, important to mention and reiterate the fact that tinnitus masking devices are not a cure for the condition in any way. A more accurate description of them is a way for patients tomake their day-to-day lives much more pleasant through tinnitus relief, aiding things like sleep and concentration.
How Do Tinnitus Masking Devices Work?
These devices operate on the principle that the white noise their produce will make the brain focus on that sound as opposed to the grating noise produced by the tinnitus. As such, with time, the patient will be less and less aware of the discomfort caused by the hear ringing through the tinnitus treatment.
Adding more noise to treat the problem of unwanted sound may seem ridiculous at first but it is very effective. The idea behind it is that the noise created in these devices should be amplified in the correct range of human hearing where the tinnitus has occurred. A controlled sound which is much easier to listen to is what provides the ears with something to focus on and, therefore, relief from tinnitus.
Imagine having to listen to a horror movie soundtrack for the rest of your life and suddenly someone drowns it out with your favorite album. The sensation is similar for some, as relief from the constancy of the tinnitus symptoms is something people are desperate for.
Testing if It Will Work for You
Though there is no perfect test for whether tinnitus masking devices will work for you, there are things that can give you a good idea of whether they will. For instance, if you stand next to a running shower or faucet which is running on full and experience some sort of relief from your tinnitus, then a white noise machine may well work. Another example would be if you get some relief from public transport such as trains and buses, where engine noise or other white noise is often present and can help to drown out the tinnitus.
Regular or Open?
There are types of hearing aid which are both open and closed. This is similar to headphones, which are available in either design.
Closed hearing aids can lead to sounds being amplified such as your own chewing or, of course, your tinnitus.In rare cases, this can lead to the brain compensating and actually helping with tinnitus, but generally, it is better to use an open hearing aid.
Open hearing aids still allow plenty of audio in, they pick up and even amplify some of the sounds around you, which is the most effective way to experience relief from tinnitus as well as a natural representation of the world going on around you.
The Best Tinnitus Masking Device Reviews for 2018
Though the market for these types of products is relatively new, there are quite a number of tinnitus masking devices on the market now. The following reviews talk you through some of the more effective devices and their unique features.
When it comes to hearing aids, comfort is of the utmost importance. The Vibes Acoustic Filter is designed with the patient in mind. They come in many different sizes so the patient can fit them accordingly. Furthermore, they made from hypoallergenic silicone material which does not cause any unwanted irritations.
- They are comfortable
- They feature a design that makes them virtually invisible
- They are made out of hypoallergenic silicone
- They have small parts which are a choking hazard around young children
From the design to the silicone used and the different sizes, the Vibes Acoustic Filter hearing aid is a wonderful choice for most ear ringing patients who want to filter out outside loud noises as well.
Apart from hearing aids, patients suffering from tinnitus can also benefit from a desktop or tabletop white noise generators. These devices can be calibrated to the patient’s particular form of tinnitus and can drown out the grating noise from their condition. One of the best white noise generators is the KEY IDEA White Noise device.
Not only does this machine offer excellent sound therapy but it does so in a beautiful design. It comes with six setting options which include white noise, rainforest sounds, lullaby, and ocean waves.
This tinnitus masking device is particularly useful in that it can be used by both infants who have trouble sleeping as well as people who suffer from tinnitus. It is also a device that can help manage stress and boost your mood as you relax using the various noises.
- It has a unique design
- Has six sound settings
- Does not need to go into your ear
- Can be used by both infants and tinnitus patients
- Although it is portable, it is less convenient than a hearing aid
If you want something for your nightstand or even to use around the house and office as you go about your business, this white noise generator is the best option for you.
Widex Zen Therapy
Think of this as a super hearing aid designed specifically for people suffering from tinnitus and the kind of stress it brings. This hearing device combines sound stimulation, noise canceling, and amplification. The hearing aid makes use of Zen fractal tones that are not only soothing but also pleasant.
- It features a nice design
- Combines several factors such as sound stimulation and amplification
- Features soothing Zen fractal tones
- Specifically designed for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch)
If you are looking for something that takes your relaxation very seriously, then this is the tinnitus hearing aid for you.
This product describes itself as a “therapy device” for people with tinnitus. It has the aim of trying to bring other natural sounds to the forefront and in the process mask your tinnitus.
The sound generator which is used in this device creates white noise. This can then be altered by your healthcare professional, who will be able to specifically target the frequencies you are struggling with and make a much more effective relief for your ears.
There is even a volume control within, which lets you turn up the level if you are in an area or time when you are suffering particularly badly with your tinnitus.
ReSound works with an application which can be installed on pretty much any modern smartphone, Apple or Android. ReSound’s app is packed with a lot of great features. The company has clearly spent a lot of time and effort into developing something that can actually help people.
Though a hearing healthcare professional can adjust the hearing aid itself, the app allows you to make alterations too and perfect the sound you want. The app also has different types of audio and sound therapy which you can choose from, as well as other features including meditation which can help greatly with the mental challenges prevented by tinnitus.
- Customizable by a healthcare professional to target your form of tinnitus
- Also customizable by the user from an app, which offers a variety of sounds and therapies
- Requires the companion app to be installed on your device
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Tinnitus Masking Device
When looking for the best tinnitus masking device, certain aspects of its design will make it more suitable for your own specific needs.
The criteria set out for our device reviews consider the following factors:
- There is no point in buying a device which is not going to be comfortable, especially as you will be wearing it for long periods of time. An uncomfortable device will lead to you wanting to take it out and totally defeat the purpose.
- It has to be easy to clean as your ears are prone to infections
- Customization is another important factor in the consideration of what makes a ‘good’ masking device. Many of these products now have companion applications, which can expand the range of what it can do. Ideally, a device will work with or without the app.
- It needs to have several settings to suit your form of tinnitus and ideally should be able to target specific frequencies.
One factor to consider is that this sort of product needs to be bought with the advice of your hearing doctor. Fortunately, hearing doctors are constantly learning more about these types of products and can help you to decide which will work best for your unique condition.
Protect Your Hearing
One word of advice that should be considered by all tinnitus sufferers is that it is still vital to protect your hearing. Just because you are already suffering doesn’t mean you should give up the ghost, so to speak. Protecting your hearing can mean that in the long term your tinnitus has less chance of worsening and causing more issues. Using hearing protectors at live events and avoiding loud machinery noises is wise as a preventative measure. Tinnitus is not something you either have or you don’t and there are varying degrees of severity.
Tinnitus can be an extremely frustrating condition. It is difficult to manage but modern technology is making it much more bearable. With the right kind of tinnitus masking devices, such as the ones reviewed here, you can make that condition a lot less debilitating and more manageable in your day-to-day life.