Sound in a wonderous thing. It affects our emotions and thoughts in many ways – both negative and positive. Listening to music can be soothing and enjoyable, but it can also be stressful and aggravating if the volume is too loud.
While the quality of the sounds we hear is subjective, and depends upon individual preferences, the quantity (as measured in decibels) is very objective. Exposure to high volume sounds, especially for prolonged time periods, can permanently damage the delicate hair cells off the inner ear, and lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). As a result of coming in contact with these loud sounds, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans have developed some degree of tinnitus (constantly hearing a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears). The truth is, even muted sounds can be disquieting; for instance, sounds at a volume below 10 decibels – softer than a whisper, such as the sound of a ticking clock – have been proven to cause anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
On the flip side, sound can be used to reduce stress and anxiety and even treat some aspects of hearing loss. Many individuals have experienced the calming effects of soft music, the tranquil sound of surf or falling water, or the meditative sounds of chanting or Tibetan singing bowls. These types of sounds are increasingly being used to treat anxiety rather than induce it, and are similarly being used by hearing specialists to treat tinnitus rather than cause it. In hospitals and clinical situations, music therapy has been successfully used to hasten recovery from surgical procedures, to aid stroke victims during their rehab, and to slow the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. White noise generators, which purposefully produce a mixture of frequencies to cover up other sounds, are helping insomniacs get a better night’s sleep and office workers disregard distracting background noise.
In the field of audiology, music therapy and sound therapy are exhibiting encouraging results as a tinnitus treatment option. While the music doesn’t make the tinnitus go away, the therapist is able to work with the patient to psychologically mask the buzzing or ringing sounds. Audiologists and hearing specialists trained in music therapy for tinnitus sufferers use carefully chosen music tracks to retrain the mind to focus on foreground sounds instead of the background ringing from tinnitus. This treatment method 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 developed tinnitus, contact us and arrange an appointment so that we can discuss treatment options, which may include music therapy, with you.