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Can silence cure tinnitus?

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It is a common condition, affecting an estimated 15% to 20% of people. The noise can vary from a quiet background sound to a roar, and it can be intermittent or continuous. While it often affects older adults, tinnitus can occur at any age. The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers nerve cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear to your brain, where these signals are interpreted as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can trigger this nerve signal and cause tinnitus even when no external sound is present. Other causes include other ear problems, chronic health conditions, and injuries or conditions that affect the nerves in your ear or the hearing center in your brain.

How is tinnitus treated?

There is currently no cure for most cases of chronic tinnitus. However, various treatments can help make tinnitus less bothersome and allow you to live a relatively normal life. Treatments may include:

– Hearing aids: These amplify external sounds, which can help mask the tinnitus or make it less noticeable.

– Sound therapy: This uses external noise to mask the tinnitus. Options include white noise machines, tabletop sound generators, or simple things like fans, radios, or music.

– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This can teach coping techniques to make tinnitus less bothersome.

– Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): This uses sound therapy along with counseling. The goal is to help your brain ignore the unwanted sound.

– Medications: There are no medications specifically for tinnitus, but some antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and anticonvulsants may provide relief for some people.

– Alternative therapies: Options include hypnosis, acupuncture, vitamin or mineral supplements, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

– Electrical stimulation: Small devices placed behind or on the ear provide a low-level electrical signal to the brain, may help train the brain to ignore the tinnitus.

Can silence cure tinnitus?

Many people with tinnitus report that their symptoms improve with silence and seem louder and more bothersome in noisy environments. However, while quiet environments can provide temporary relief, true silence does not actually cure tinnitus. Here are some key points on the impact of silence on tinnitus:

– Silence may bring temporary relief by masking or covering up the tinnitus. With no other sounds, you become more aware of the tinnitus and the contrast emphasizes the annoying sensations.

– Avoiding noise can worsen tinnitus over time as you become more sensitive to and focused on the sounds. Complete silence is difficult to achieve anyway.

– Tinnitus is caused by physical changes in the ear or auditory systems. Silence does not remediate these underlying causes. It may promote relaxation and psychological coping but does not treat the root problem.

– Masking tinnitus with silence can provide some relief in the moment but may make the underlying tinnitus seem louder when normal environmental sounds return.

– Silence deprivation therapy, restricting noise by using earplugs for an extended time, has been studied as a tinnitus treatment. But reviews have found insufficient evidence that it provides long-term improvement.

Should you avoid noise with tinnitus?

While it’s understandable to want to limit exposure to loud or irritating sounds, complete avoidance of sound is not advisable for tinnitus for a few reasons:

– Trying to create total silence can stress the auditory system, worsening hypersensitivity. Gentle, neutral background sound is preferable.

– Coping strategies are important with tinnitus. Avoidance behavior can increase anxiety, depression, social isolation, and functional impairment.

– Sudden silence can create a contrast that emphasizes tinnitus sounds. Abrupt exposure to quiet after noise should be minimized.

– Exposure to a variety of sounds can help retrain your brain and make tinnitus less noticeable overall. Varied stimulation is preferable to silence.

– Hearing loss often accompanies tinnitus, so limiting sound exposure can exacerbate auditory deprivation. Muffled or distorted sounds can also increase tinnitus perception.

– Masking sound can provide relief during sleep, relaxation, or work. Varied natural sounds or white noise is recommended rather than complete silence.

Instead of avoiding sound completely, it is better to avoid very loud noises and gradually progress with sound enrichment using neutral sounds. Consulting a hearing health professional can help develop an appropriate, personalized sound therapy plan.

Tips for managing tinnitus with sound

Here are some tips for using sound to alleviate your tinnitus:

– Use earplugs or protective muffs in dangerously loud environments to prevent worsening tinnitus. But avoid overusing earplugs which can exacerbate sensitivity.

– Try masking sounds to cover up tinnitus during activities like resting, reading, or falling asleep. Soothing nature sounds, white noise, or fans can help distract your focus.

– Add background sound enriched with varied natural frequencies. Sounds like rain, ocean waves or steady fans are preferable to total silence.

– Set a radio, television, or music at a low volume to mask bothersome tinnitus while you work. Avoid volumes that could worsen hearing loss.

– Use a white noise machine or tinnitus masking device. These produce neutral, non-intrusive sounds to gently distract from tinnitus.

– Try a sound generator app that creates customizable sounds like white noise, ambient tones, or music. Identify soothing sounds to play during tinnitus flare-ups.

– Consider a hearing aid, which can amplify natural sounds and make tinnitus less noticeable. Even if you have only mild hearing loss, amplified sound can mask tinnitus.

– Try tinnitus retraining therapy, which uses a device like a hearing aid along with counseling to retrain your brain’s auditory processing.

– Discuss specialized sound therapy equipment with an audiologist. Options like Neuronic Tinnitus Treatment use customized sounds played through earphones to provide long-term relief.

The risks of silence deprivation

Prolonged silence deprivation by blocking out natural ambient sound can have negative consequences:

– It increases strain and effort by the auditory cortex as it tries to amplify nonexistent sound. This can worsen tinnitus.

– It enhances negative emotional reactions like depression, anxiety and worry. Tinnitus often has a psychological component.

– It promotes over-attention and hypervigilance, making you focus obsessively on tinnitus sounds.

– It prevents normal auditory stimulation needed to train the brain to filter out phantom ear noises.

– It can lead to distorted perception of sounds when normal hearing returns, as auditory mapping has been disrupted.

– It exacerbates auditory deprivation from hearing loss. Limited sound input worsens processing difficulties.

– It intensifies social isolation and communication challenges for those already struggling with hearing loss.

– It causes tension in the middle ear muscles straining to hear nonexistent sounds, potentially worsening tinnitus.

– It disrupts sleep when your brain is deprived of its usual nighttime sound environment.

Overall, the risks of extended silence deprivation outweigh any potential benefits for tinnitus relief. Restricting sound input should be avoided in favor of a personalized, progressive sound enrichment therapy program.

The role of counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy

Because tinnitus has a psychological component, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help in addition to sound therapy. Key goals include:

– Identifying and modifying negative thought patterns that exacerbate tinnitus

– Developing coping strategies so tinnitus does not severely impact daily functioning

– Reducing anxiety and improving relaxation skills

– Treating accompanying mental health conditions like depression that can worsen tinnitus

– Promoting better sleep habits to manage tinnitus at night

– Overcoming social isolation or communication challenges

– Facilitatinghabituation so your brain learns to filter out the tinnitus sound

CBT provides tools to gain control over reactions to tinnitus so you no longer feel like a passive victim. Therapy empowers you to actively manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to your tinnitus symptoms. CBT can be done individually, in a group setting, or using self-help materials like workbooks. It should be customized for your unique situation. Combining CBT with sound therapy often provides the greatest chance of long-term improvement.


Silence does not provide a cure for tinnitus. However, sound therapy incorporating soothing, natural sounds can make tinnitus less noticeable overall. Neutral sounds like white noise can mask tinnitus during activities. Hearing aids also help by amplifying ambient sound. But complete silence or sound deprivation tends to worsen tinnitus. Counseling like CBT further empowers control over reactions to tinnitus. With the right combination of sound therapy and psychological coping techniques, the negative impact of tinnitus can be significantly reduced. So while silence itself will not eliminate the condition, intentional sound enrichment strategies along with cognitive behavioral therapy can help sufferers live with tinnitus more successfully.