Woman in distress, sertraline withdrawal, help for tinnitus, white noise

People with tinnitus or ringing in the ears suffer invisible harm to their quality of life. The constant hissing, chirping or buzzing can make it hard to function during the day and sleep is often disturbed. Such patients may seek respite from the sounds in their heads by using a white noise generator.

Is White Noise the Way to Treat Tinnitus?

A review of the effects of white noise suggests that this tempting short-term solution may have negative consequences over the long term (JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Aug. 30, 2018). In animal studies, white noise exposure disrupts neurological organization. In summary, the reviewers conclude that unstructured noise can produce the same unfortunate brain changes as tinnitus and slow processing of acoustic signals like words.

What Else Can You Do?

The scientists writing this review suggest several approaches that would take advantage of the neuroplasticity of the brain and produce more positive brain changes than white noise. They recommend sound therapy using structured acoustic signals such as music or speech. Other approaches that can benefit sufferers include computerized brain training and timing-sensitive conditioning to produce long-term synaptic depression. In the future, vagus nerve stimulation may be practical. Animal studies are positive, but current methods of vagus nerve stimulation are invasive.

The authors note:

“A noisy environment produces a noisy brain.”

Consequently, they discourage random-noise generators for treating tinnitus as doing more harm than good. You may be interested in reading what we wrote some years ago about the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment that utilizes principles of neuroplasticity to reorganize the brain.

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  1. Mandy

    What about someone who doesn’t suffer from tinnitus? Are there are any studies saying its harmful to use white noise at night to sleep? I use earbuds with a white noise app to fall asleep and stay asleep because I am a very light sleeper. I suppose the health benefits of a good night sleep might outweigh any risk of utilizing white noise every night but it is still a concern that I have nonetheless.

  2. sarjula

    Yoga asana namely Bhramary helps . I always get rid of tinnitus by doing this asana for 10 times.

  3. MRB

    I’d love to find something that reduces or eliminates tinnitus. I’ve had tinnitus in my left ear for over 40 years, following a motorcycle accident that fractured my skull behind the left ear. I’ve seen a couple of EarNoseThroat doctors that said they could rebuild my inner ear so I could hear out of that ear. However, they don’t know for sure that it would eliminate the ringing in the ear, since that may be caused by a phantom signal. I’m also worried about vertigo following the surgery. Anyone have similar damage to their ear out there that has had surgery?

  4. Carol S

    In addition to speaking with one’s doctor, here’s what I’ve learned, to stop (or at least very much decrease) one’s tinnitus (and I know this from my own personal experiences):

    Chinese “chi gong” medicine says (and it works for me) to do something called “drumming”, for tinnitus, which means this:

    I hold my hands over my ears as if my hands were “ear-muffs”. (right hand over right ear, and left hand over left ear), with fingers pointing upwards, and with all fingers in gentle contact with scalp.

    Then, I take my 2nd fingers (next to thumbs) and cross them over my 3rd fingers, and then immediately bring back my 2nd fingers in a “thumping” manner (“drumming”) onto my head.

    I repeat this “drumming” maneuver 5 more times (total of 6 times doing the “drumming”).

    Then, I keep my “ear-muff” position of hands over ears for a few more seconds.

    Anyone can google “drumming, chi gong” for more details.

    And also, placing ones middle fingers in ears, gently (right middle finger into right ear, and left middle finger into left ear), for a minute or so, also seems to help decrease tinnitus.

    Hope this helps.

    Concerned lady in Colorado (retired RN/nurse, into holistic health only when safe and effective, but always consult with doctor first)

  5. David S.

    I just use a small fan on the night stand, it’s just loud enough that I can sleep.

  6. JAM
    New York State

    After going on a cruise 7 yrs ago, I developed ‘disembarkment syndrome’ or “Mal’de debarkment! For 1 1/2 yrs I could not go upstairs, bend over or lie my head down on a pillow to sleep in a regular bed. I was most comfortable sleeping sitting up in the corner of the couch. I was continually dizzy and nauseous ! It was so, so horrible! I had to retire early. : ( Even though I had gone to many doctors, tried prescribed drugs, tried PT, I still had that constant drone in my head!
    Over time, I learned to modify my environment, always have background noise from the TV or radio. When I go into a restaurant, I sit so I am not bombarded by sound or light. Having various strengths of ear plugs on me is helpful when out in public. White noise does not work as well as having the radio or TV on.
    I am told to never go on a boat or fly in a plane again. ( Best ear plugs go to”earpeace.com.”)
    I hope this helps other people as this really changed my life!

  7. Nancy
    Seattle, WA

    I have not found white noise to be helpful with my tinnitus. Though I tried it only a couple of times, it was very disconcerting. I’ve gone to a homeo-pathic doctor and a cranial-sacral specialist and have received some relief. The symptoms return, however. I bought hearing aids, not only for some hearing loss, but also because I was told they may be helpful for the tinnitus. Again, this was not the case and I have had to discontinue using them because they caused occasional severe ear aches. My cranial-sacral specialist said the constant impulses may make the situation worse.

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