Should I Use White Noise to Mask My Buzz/Ring? Or Continue Listening to My Tinnitus?

Discussion in 'Support' started by JohnCG, Jul 25, 2021.

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Should I Mask My Tinnitus with White Noise?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Maybe

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    1. JohnCG

      JohnCG Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Feb 2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown (potentially Stress)
      Good evening,

      My tinnitus started 6 months ago, during an incredible period of personal/professional stress (new job, moving cities/homes, no sleep etc).

      After checking 3 ENTs doctor (in different countries) and 1 audiologist I was told (by all of them) that this was related to stress and "it will go away with time"
      - I have normal hearing loss for my age: Mid-30's
      - I have high blood pressure (unsure if this is related to tinnitus/stress levels)

      I believe I fortunately have a mild case, as I can now sleep during the night (strangely it feels that the buzzing gets much quieter at night - it was the opposite at the beginning)

      Since I can now tolerate the buzz/ring, in order to improve this (e.g., habituation) or hopefully fix it, should I:

      1) Sleep and work with a white noise to mask the buzz?
      2) Continue to listen the buzz as it will get me "used to it" and improve/accelerate habituation?


      Thank you for the help,
      John
       
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    2. Mister Muso
      Worried

      Mister Muso Member

      Location:
      Scotland
      Tinnitus Since:
      2007 / April 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud music
      Hi John, welcome to the forum!

      I found white noise helpful at the start when my tinnitus was loud all the time. I then reached a point where white noise seemed to make it worse (react), so I moved to pink noise, then brown noise, and eventually nature sounds - birds, water sounds etc. Eventually I found quiet music was best, which I still use to this day more often than anything else - after two years of tinnitus. I also use bell sounds like "random bell melody", wind chimes and "musical neuromodulation" sounds on YouTube.

      As well as tinnitus I also have hyperacusis. This has gradually reduced over time but is still troublesome at times. So maybe I have helped my own limited recovery through my choice of sounds at different stages.

      I would sum up my approach as "if it feels good, do it". White noise was a lifesaver early on to help me get any sleep, but in time my ears told me to try something else. I did ask my audiologist about white noise generators but was told that my case was not severe enough for any type of hearing aid. Easy for them to say.

      So in summary as you are saying you can sleep ok now, I would say just listen to whatever your ears find soothing when you are at work. Here is a link to the ambient music that I find helpful, if you have a Spotify account.

      That's great that things are getting better for you. Just continue to protect your ears the way you have been, to avoid any setbacks, and all the best with your recovery!

      Graham
       
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    3. Oabmarcus

      Oabmarcus Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1/30/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Stress and years of using earbuds/headphones
      bsolutely not, do not mask low tinnitus. The brain will get used to it and it will help you heal/habituate quicker. Masking is only gonna make it worse in your case.
       
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    4. Digital Doc

      Digital Doc Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise induced
      Masking tinnitus when you sleep can make it worse in my experience. Better to avoid it.
       
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    5. RAA

      RAA Member

      Location:
      Denmark
      Tinnitus Since:
      06/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      I'm strictly in the "No" camp here, even more so when sleeping. In my case I used to mask with pink noise for many months since my onset June 2020, was not until I stopped masking about 3 months ago that both my sleep improved and now having monthly improvement in my tinnitus levels. Also when I say mask I mean both masking but also having any level of low sound enrichment.
       
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    6. Massi91

      Massi91 Member

      Location:
      Hannover, Germany
      Tinnitus Since:
      2010
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Perforated eardrum and prob. Noise Trauma
      Don't mask your tinnitus, it will get worse.
       
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    7. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      @Digital Doc, @RAA, @Massi91, no masking or no sound enrichment. I was told by Michael Leigh to use sound enrichment. I have reactive tinnitus.
       
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    8. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      JohnCG

      JohnCG Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Feb 2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown (potentially Stress)
      Thank you all.

      Regarding habituation, do you think I will get into a stage of not hearing it anymore?
      Any idea of timeline?

      My ENT (tinnitus) expert told me this would go away as it's stress related...
       
    9. RAA

      RAA Member

      Location:
      Denmark
      Tinnitus Since:
      06/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      Hi, I'm sure for some people it might help. It seemed logical to me that it would help when sleeping, for the brain to not listen to silence. But in the end no matter if I set sounds to “all night” or just timed for a few hours I would be guaranteed to wake up with screaming tinnitus at around level 7/10. I would then live through the day with 5-7/10 tinnitus level, until I by chance fell asleep with no sounds and slept better than ever. Now repeating this for the last 4 months my tinnitus is like 0.5-1.5/10 daily with just the occasional 2.5/10 on a bad day but it’s like only 1 in 10 days now.

      In the end everyone is different, but now I have found I sleep better and have better low level of tinnitus in the daytime without sound enrichment during sleeping.
       
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    10. Oabmarcus

      Oabmarcus Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1/30/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Stress and years of using earbuds/headphones
      That's what they all say...
       
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    11. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      Hmm I find I sleep better without noise too. It’s been about 3 months for me.
       
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    12. Digital Doc

      Digital Doc Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise induced
      I don't use sound enrichment. I studied this problem for months to come to this conclusion. I also did the experiment myself, and others came to the same conclusion. Hope this info helps others as well.
       
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    13. RAA

      RAA Member

      Location:
      Denmark
      Tinnitus Since:
      06/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      Yep, for me it’s like at night my ears need a rest as if having to absorb more sound during sleep they were getting fatigued.
       
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    14. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      How did you gauge progress or get over reactivity?
       
    15. Digital Doc

      Digital Doc Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise induced
      I gauge progress by a subjective assessment of the level of the tinnitus. My tinnitus hit a peak of what I would sat 7/10, was waking me up at night, and also has low level hyperacusis.

      Now, I no longer have the hyperacusis, it does not wake me up, and my tinnitus is a 0.5/10 after 3 years.
       
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    16. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      That’s amazing lol. So just time then?
       
    17. Zulla Haile
      Fine

      Zulla Haile Member Benefactor

      Location:
      California
      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Unknown
      I've had it since November. My case isn't too severe. There are times when it's loud and slowly goes down. For example after getting out of the shower it's about a 5/10 for about 15 minutes, then gradually eases up. I found that trying to use white noise at night just irritated me more. I enjoy listening to rain sounds etc as I work on my computer, but that's when I'm already up and about. At night though, I just let my brain deal with it and think about stuff as I slowly drift off. I find that if I'm thinking about other things, it can become unnoticeable. Be well.
       
    18. Digital Doc

      Digital Doc Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise induced
      Not just time... tons of work also. I avoided all loud exposure as best I could. When I use the vacuum, I use both foam earplugs and earmuffs, for example. I also have not been to any events, and listen to anything in the car on a low setting. I also sleep with earplugs each night which helped me habituate a lot. There was also the daily Green Tea, and the year of daily Omega-3 tablets. I still have the tinnitus in a quiet room, and the wrong exposure I am sure could easily spike me again.
       
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    19. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      That’s awesome man!
       
    20. kingsfan
      Mellow

      kingsfan Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Southern California
      Tinnitus Since:
      9-17-20 / 10-20-20 / 3-31-21 / 5-23-21
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      turning everything up to 11
      I used to sleep with earplugs and it seemed to help help back then. However thing worsened and I cannot fall asleep without masking. I set a masking track on Spotify to a Sonos One speaker with a sleep timer of 1 hour so it isn't running too long after I fall asleep. I usually have a fan running too because I sleep hot.

      I try and protect against volumes over 70-75 dBa, otherwise try to live life as normal. Enjoy music at reasonable volumes and still play guitar and record music. I do not play with a band or live anymore. I've notice my sound sensitivity has increased with regular exposure to music and TV/movies. I'm able to listen at more normal volumes without much trouble. I still get the ear fullness now and then. I'm starting to think it's more from sound sensitivity than from any actual hearing damage.

      My tinnitus seems to stay stable except for relapses from medication and recently another audiologist exam that was required to see a doctor I really had really high hopes on.
       
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    21. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      I hope your latest audio related ear trauma subsides soon.
       
    22. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise induced
      Hi @John.

      Stress can cause tinnitus and the two things mentioned in your post are certainly able to cause it. If this is case then I agree with your ENT doctors and Audiologist, that in time it will go away. The fact that the tinnitus is mild makes this a strong possibility. However, please keep in mind exposure to loud noise is the most common cause of tinnitus.

      If you are a regular user of any type of headphones including earbuds, AirPods and headsets which are often used for playing computer games, it is likely any of these devices are responsible for the tinnitus and not stress. If you listen to loud music through speakers, at home or in the car, go to venues where loud music is played or you have experienced ringing in your ears before, then the tinnitus being caused by loud noise becomes more of a probability.

      A lot of people keep using the word masking tinnitus and it is the wrong word to use. The reason being tinnitus should never be masked, because to do this the brain will never habituate to it. The brain cannot habituate to tinnitus unless it is able to hear it. This doesn't mean when tinnitus is loud to allow yourself to become completely immersed in the noise, as this will not help either in fact quite the opposite. When tinnitus is loud and intrusive it can be very debilitating and affect one's mental and emotional wellbeing considerably.

      Low level sound enrichment is the right and proper thing to use even when it is mild, especially for those new to the condition. To sit in silence and listen to mild tinnitus or sleep in a quiet room without sound enrichment, one risks making it worse. If the brain hears silence when we sleep, it has the ability to focus on internal sounds within the body and head and will increase its internal gain. Similar to a volume control on a radio. In doing so the tinnitus will also be increased which can make it louder during our waking hours. The brain never switches off until we die. Supplying it with low level sound enrichment whilst asleep, helps prevent it increasing the tinnitus and if hyperacusis is present will help treat it too by desensitising the auditory system.

      The idea of overusing earplugs and to be on one's guard for any potential exposure to loud noise is not a good practice in my opinion. This does not help long term habituation but instead, instils fear and reinforces negative thinking towards tinnitus and sound. If one isn't careful they can develop conditions such as phonophobia and misophonia. I have corresponded with people in this forum affected by them. Caused by overusing hearing protection and fear of leaving their home because of environmental sounds. They have had to seek counselling with an Audiologist specialising in tinnitus, hyperacusis and fear of sounds.

      Ideally, use nature sounds for low level sound enrichment at night. You can use relaxing music such as classical during the day. I am not one for using white noise unless it's delivered through dedicated white noise generators. These are the best devices I have found for treating tinnitus and hyperacusis with sound enrichment. Since your tinnitus is mild, nature sounds played through a sound machine and low level music through speakers should suffice.

      Please click on the links below and read my posts. I advise you not to use any type of headphones even at low volume.

      All the best
      Michael

      New to Tinnitus, What to Do? | Tinnitus Talk Support Forum
      Tinnitus, A Personal View | Tinnitus Talk Support Forum
       
    23. kingsfan
      Mellow

      kingsfan Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Southern California
      Tinnitus Since:
      9-17-20 / 10-20-20 / 3-31-21 / 5-23-21
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      turning everything up to 11
      Thanks, I’m doing better. It definitely made things worse but I’m adjusting.
       
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    24. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise induced
      That is correct @Wrfortiscue. My advice is to use low level sound enrichment and follow the advice I gave you a while ago. I do not believe there is such a thing as reactive tinnitus, meaning a recognised medical condition. I believe tinnitus can react to sound. In most cases this is caused by exposure to loud noise that has resulted in a person developing tinnitus and sometimes having an oversensitivity to sound. This oversensitivity can vary considerably from mild, moderate, severe or full blow hyperacusis with or without pain.

      Treating it with sound enrichment can help but for best results when it's severe, is using white noise generators, that might also require counselling with a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist trained in tinnitus and hyperacusis management. Medication may also be required.

      Michael
       
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    25. Ben Winders
      Pensive

      Ben Winders Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      acoustic
      Everyone saying that you shouldn't mask: I kind of get the rationale behind it, but keep in mind that there are a lot of people (that are not on these forums) that wear hearing aids with white noise generators. So they are effectively masking.

      And then there is that subset of people with low frequency tinnitus (drone noise) that only need a VERY VERY LOW volume white/brown noise to shut down their drone completely (most people with drones can stop it by just sticking a finger in their ear), so I guess for this subset, masking is more of a 'mechanical' thing than actually overpowering the tinnitus sound.
       
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    26. CDNThailand

      CDNThailand Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      11/17/2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      MP3, Stress, TMJ
      I would say don't mask it, learn to live with it. Then you can handle silence with ease.
       
    27. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise induced
      Most people that say they mask their tinnitus, mean to cover up the tinnitus with a sound so it can't be heard. This is not the way to use masking. Masking is an outdated terminology and no longer used by Audiologists and Hearing Therapists, that practice tinnitus and hyperacusis management.

      The term sound enrichment is used today. Whether nature sounds, white noise or music is used for sound enrichment, the level of the sound should always be kept slightly below the tinnitus. Unless the brain can hear the tinnitus slightly above the sound enrichment it will not learn to habituate to it.

      Over time the brain habituates to the sound enrichment. For example white noise generators set slightly below the tinnitus and slowly pushes the tinnitus further into the background so it becomes less noticeable. If hyperacusis is present, the white noise will also treat it.

      Michael
       
    28. Wrfortiscue
      Provocative

      Wrfortiscue Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Trauma
      I don’t think mine is severe just yet but it is annoying lol. I have been playing sound during the day.
       
    29. Ben Winders
      Pensive

      Ben Winders Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      acoustic
      I was kind of hoping you'd respond.

      Did you read the second part of my post as it probably means you'll have to think outside the box.

      I'll speak as an ambassador of the drone/hum subset, I hope they don't mind.

      So, while our drone/hum is insanely loud, it only takes an unbelievably low volume to completely stop it. Keep in mind, I'm not saying "mask it", I'm effectively saying "stop it".

      It stops completely (from 12/10 loudness to 0/10) when we put our finger in our ear.

      Yesterday, for the first time since onset 12 months ago (because I'm terrified of putting headphones on), I tried to feed my droning ear with a sound that would stop it. Even if it was 12/10 droning, it only took an almost inaudible (0.05 value in MacBook Audio Midi Setup) white noise to stop it. It just needs to be at the right frequency (fridge buzzing type). I also shoved the headphones into my girlfriend's ear and she said: this is barely louder than the sound my finger makes when I put it into my ear.

      Our droning also stops (yes, stops) when words are spoken to us (even by a high pitched voice) - the droning continues in between words.
       
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    30. Michael Leigh

      Michael Leigh Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Brighton, UK
      Tinnitus Since:
      April /1996
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise induced
      Try to keep it that by not listening to audio through any type of headphones or being exposed to overly loud sounds. Enjoy your life by engaging in this you like to do, then the tinnitus will recede further into the background and become even less noticeable.
       
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