Notch therapy is a fairly new tinnitus treatment option and could be effective for certain cases of tinnitus. Various studies have found that listening to a full spectrum of sound, minus the tone of the individual’s tinnitus, can reduce tinnitus symptoms. So the individual listens to sounds, without having to hear their specific tinnitus frequency.
But what does that mean?
Many individuals who suffer from tinnitus also have some hearing loss, to some extent. This means hearing aids are often used with tinnitus patients. Notch Therapy can be integrated into the hearing aid so external noise is amplified as normal, but the individual’s tinnitus frequency is not.
This makes Notch Therapy different from traditional sound therapy that is audible. Notch Therapy is simply removing the tinnitus frequency, but not necessarily playing any other noise or sound profile. The idea is that good hearing and speech is still a priority when using the hearing aid, but the tinnitus pitch is removed.
This type of treatment is ideal for those with tonal tinnitus, which is the most common type of tinnitus. While some web sites state that Notch Therapy can make tinnitus completely disappear, this isn’t always the case. There is currently no cure for tinnitus, but Notch Therapy could be a great treatment option to minimize symptoms.
What is tonal tinnitus?
Tonal tinnitus, the most common type of tinnitus, is when the individual hears (nearly) continuous sound with very specific frequencies. With tonal tinnitus, the volume of the sounds may change. Tonal tinnitus can also be a variety of different sounds, like hissing, ringing, whirling or buzzing. There can be various causes of tonal tinnitus, which can sometimes be hard to pinpoint.
Most importantly, this type of tinnitus does not include pulsatile tinnitus which often matches the individuals heart beat. This is often caused by issues relating to blood flow and circulation, so it wouldn’t necessarily be improved by Notch Therapy.
Does Tinnitus Notch Therapy work?
The idea is that hearing “notched” music or white noise through a hearing device or hearing aid will provide less stimulation to the ear and your particular tinnitus frequency. If you have hearing loss as well, you can have daily external sound amplified through a hearing aid. This would be done as normal, without amplifying your particular tinnitus frequency.
But does this actually work to reduce symptoms?
A study in 2016 noted it was the first of it’s kind that researched “tailor-made notched music training that was planned and conducted following the CONSORT statement standards for clinical trials.”
Obviously more research is needed to fully link these type of therapy with reduced tinnitus symptoms, but there was some positive effects noted. After patients in the study used tailor-made notched music training for three months, “the effect was observable in the most direct rating of tinnitus perception, the tinnitus loudness, while more global measures of tinnitus distress do not show relevant changes.”
However, the study originally was looking for reduced tinnitus related distress and tinnitus perception, which did not occur. Only tinnitus loudness was reported to have decreased.
Another study found that patients with Notch Therapy integrated into the hearing aids showed improvement within three weeks compared to those that used hearing aids alone. These benefits were maintained beyond six months of observation.
One issue with Notch Therapy is that the individual suffering from tinnitus will need to allocate time every day to listen to notched therapy music, or play notched white noise. This of course can be disruptive or time-consuming. This therapy would also need to take place for months before real results are seen (or heard).
More research is needed before this type of therapy is clinically proven to improve tinnitus severity.
If you decide to use a hearing aid for Notch Therapy, your hearing care professional will first need to find the frequency of your tinnitus. You will also be fitted for a hearing aid and any adjustments will be made if needed. Once you know your individual tinnitus frequency, your white noise can be generated with your tinnitus frequency range removed. The patient may also have music “notched” rather than just white noise, if they prefer to listen to their favourite songs instead. Or finally, the hearing aid can be programmed so your tinnitus frequency won’t be amplified through the hearing aid.
With any type of sound therapy, it’s important that the noises are played slightly below the volume of the tinnitus. This helps retrain your brain to “ignore” the tinnitus sounds over time, and push it into the background. If you play the external sound therapy too loud, it ends up fully masking the tinnitus. However, once the external noise is stopped, your tinnitus can seem louder than before.
There are also a few free options online that may provide relief, although they are obviously done without expert help. One website provides various frequencies for you to find your tinnitus sound yourself. You can then play white noise with that frequency removed, for free.
Again, more research and clinical trials are needed before Notch Therapy becomes the to-go tinnitus treatment.
Quiet Mind is a blog dedicated to turning a critical eye to tinnitus treatments and supplements. So many don’t work and are overhyped, we’re here to shed some light on some of the scams and successful products that claim to stop the ringing.