Sound in an incredible thing. It influences our moods and thoughts in many ways – both negative and positive. Listening to music can be calming and relaxing, but it can also be stressful and irritating if the volume is excessive.
While the quality of the sounds we hear is subjective, and depends on individual preferences, the quantity (as measured by loudness ,in decibels) is very objective. Extended exposure to music in excess of certain decibel levels injures the hair cells of the inner ear leading to noise-induced hearing loss. It has been estimated that in our noisy society, as many as 1 in 5 Americans have developed some amount of tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears) or other forms of hearing loss as the result of NIHL. Its easy to understand how excessive volume can cause anxiety, but so too can really soft sounds. For instance, the dripping of a faucet or ticking of a clock have been shown to trigger stress, anxiety and insomnia.
But although sound can be a cause of anxiety and hearing damage, it can also become a tool to treat the effects of hearing damage. Like many people, you’ve probably experienced the soothing effects of some sounds, such as surf on the ocean, the sound of falling water, or the meditative sounds of chanting. Recordings of these calming sounds are now in use by psychologists to treat anxiety. They are starting to be used by audiologists to treat particular hearing problems, especially tinnitus. In hospitals and clinics, music therapy has been used successfully to accelerate recovery from operations, to aid stroke victims during their recovery, and to slow the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. White noise generators, which purposefully generate a blend of frequencies to conceal other sounds, are helping insomniacs get a better night’s sleep and office workers disregard distracting background noise.
And in the field of treating hearing loss, sound therapy and music therapy is increasingly being used to treat tinnitus, and to train those who suffer from it to psychologically disguise the continuous ringing or buzzing sounds they hear. By using specialized tones or carefully chosen music tracks, hearing specialists have been able to teach tinnitus sufferers to retrain their minds to prefer the sounds they want to hear over the buzzing sounds produced by the tinnitus. It’s not as if the buzzing disappears; it’s more that the music therapy has allowed the patient to focus their attention elsewhere, and thus no longer feel the anxiety and stress that tinnitus can cause.
If you have experienced tinnitus, or any other form of hearing damage, and are interested in what music therapy or other tinnitus treatment methods could do for you, give us a call.