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For many people, tinnitus is a constant presence that persists for weeks or months, or even years. NYU Langone doctors and audiologists may recommend a portable device to minimize the impact of tinnitus on your wellbeing and help you manage symptoms for the long term.
NYU Langone audiologists may recommend a masking device if you have tinnitus in both ears that is unrelated to an underlying medical condition. These small devices look similar to a hearing aid, but instead of amplifying external noise, they produce a pleasant, low-volume stream of white noise. This external white noise covers up the internal noise caused by tinnitus.
Some people find that masking devices are especially helpful at night or in quiet environments, when tinnitus may seem more dominant. A white noise machine placed on a bedside table, or white noise piped through headphones or earbuds, can have the same alleviating effect.
Music—especially classical music, jazz, or chanting—provides a pleasurable and effective alternative to a masking device for some people with tinnitus.
For people with tinnitus that consistently affects their quality of life—for example, by interrupting sleep, damaging job performance, or causing social isolation—an audiologist may recommend a retraining device. This device works by retraining your brain’s responses, both physiological and emotional, to tinnitus noise, ultimately making it less noticeable.
This device consists of a small handheld unit, with headphones, that resembles a digital music player. An audiologist uses the results of your hearing test to customize the therapeutic sounds the device produces—typically, a combination of relaxing music and barely perceptible sounds chosen to counteract the pitch and tone of the tinnitus.
During the first phase of treatment, which lasts six months to a year, the device should be used daily for two to four hours. You can choose when and where to use the device. During this time, your audiologist can make adjustments if the quality of the tinnitus changes.
After this first phase, many people notice tinnitus less often and feel that retraining has had a positive effect on their quality of life. Treatment can be reduced to a maintenance phase of one or two sessions per week or less.
For people who have hearing loss as well as tinnitus, a hearing aid may be helpful. Amplifying external sounds can cover up tinnitus and make a person’s listening environment more varied, thus making tinnitus less noticeable and less distracting.
Improved hearing can allow you to engage more fully in the world around you. Having conversations, listening to music, and discerning different environmental sounds may help tinnitus seem like a less dominating presence.
Hearing aids are available in various sizes and shapes, and some are so small they’re hardly noticeable when worn in the ear. Our audiologists can help you choose the most appropriate hearing aid to fit your lifestyle and manage tinnitus symptoms.
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