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Tinnitus frequency matching

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Hearing loss can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Sometimes hearing loss is obvious but this is not always the case. Do you feel that nobody speaks clearly any more? Are you having difficulty understanding speech background noise is present? These can be the first signs of a hearing loss. 

What are the noises in my ears or head?

Do you suffer from annoying noises in your head or ears when no sound is really there? Do your ears ring or buzz, or does it feel like there is a noise inside your head? Tinnitus refers to a range of sounds such as ringing in the ears, hissing, ears buzzing, cicadas, head noises, pulsing and clicking among other things. These sounds are heard in the absence of any external  or "real" noise. If you hear noises in your ears or head, you are not alone. It is a condition called tinnitus.

Tinnitus Information

Tinnitus refers to sounds that are perceived in the absence of any external noise. These sounds include ringing, hissing, buzzing, pulsing or clicking to name a few. Tinnitus may be heard in one or both ears, or it may be experienced as "head noise." Tinnitus can be a constant sound for some people and for others it may come and go. The pitch and volume of the sound may vary over time and can be affected by factors such as stress or certain foods (more information). 

What is Tinnitus?

In the majority of cases, tinnitus is a harmless condition. Tinnitus is usually a symptom of an underlying change in the auditory system, not a disease. If you have tinnitus, a visit to your Doctor will reassure you that there is no underlying health condition causing the tinnitus. More Information

Who is affected by Tinnitus?

Tinnitus affects millions of people around the world and can affect people of any age, culture and gender. Approximately 10-20% of the population in the USA (around 50 million people) are affected by tinnitus. Of these, around 0.5 - 1% suffer from really severe, disabling tinnitus. More Information

What Triggers Tinnitus?

There are many things that can trigger tinnitus such as loud noise, illness, stress and medical conditions such as Meniere's Disease. Tinnitus is often associated with a hearing loss but this is not always the case. The auditory system starts with the outer and inner parts of the ear and includes the nerve pathway all the way up to higher levels of the brain. The mechanisms which produce tinnitus are not completely understood. More Information Some people who suffer from tinnitus are also very sensitive to loud sounds which is a condition called hyperacusis. 

Tinnitus Triggers

There are many things that can trigger tinnitus:

Tinnitus Food Triggers

There are a number of foods that have been linked to tinnitus for some people. These include:

Try reducing these foods one at a time and keep a food diary to see if you find a link to a particular type of food. If you drink a lot of caffeine it may be wise to cut back slowly as a sudden drop in caffeine levels may cause headaches or other symptoms associated with caffeine withdrawal.

What Next?

If there is an underlying medical cause for tinnitus it is possible that the condition may be treated. However, in many instances it is not clear what is causing the tinnitus. The first step in managing your tinnitus is to consult with your Doctor. When medical investigation has been completed there are many things you can do to manage your tinnitus.

When should I see my doctor about Tinnitus?

If you are experiencing tinnitus it is always a good idea to discuss it with your Doctor along with any other symptoms you may be experiencing. Symptoms to discuss with your Doctor include:

Your doctor may refer you to see an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist to assess whether there is any underlying medical cause for your tinnitus.

Treatments and Therapies

There are many therapies available for treating tinnitus. Although there is no single treatment known to cure noises in your ears and head noises for all patients, up to 85% of people who seek treatment for tinnitus report a significant amount of relief* Treatments and Therapies

Current tinnitus treatments include:

Acoustic Therapy for head noises, ears ringing and buzzing

This type of therapy focuses on treating tinnitus by using sound to reduce symptoms. Methods include tinnitus maskers (a device that looks like a hearing aid which introduces white noise into the ear), hearing aids, noise generators. Notched music, Fractal Music and Tinnitus Masking are three acoustic therapies offered on this website.

Emotional/attentional therapy for tinnitus

These therapies aim to reduce the emotional aspects of tinnitus or may focus on behaviours that can help to reduce the focus on tinnitus. Counselling, education, cognitive behavioural therapy are included in this category.

Other treatments for buzzing ears, noises in the head and ringing in the ears:

There are numerous treatments offered to treat tinnitus. Not all treatments work for all people. If you know someone who has been helped by a treatment and it does not help you, do not despair. The underlying cause of their tinnitus may be different from yours and thus their treatment may not be what you are looking for. 

Other treatments include (but are not limited to): Pharmacotherapy, herbal remedies, natural therapies, electrical/magnetic stimulation, physical therapy, surgery (for rare forms only). Many of these types of treatments are experimental. You should discuss any of these remedies with your Doctor first. Be aware that some herbal remedies can react with medication.

*Andrea Sattinger: http://www.enttoday.org/details/article/516893/The_Mechanisms_of_Tinnitus_Research_Progress_and_Treatment_Implications.html

Tinnitus Mechanisms

What is it that causes your ears to ring or creates that annoying noise inside your head? The mechanisms underlying tinnitus are not yet fully understood. It was traditionally thought that tinnitus was caused by a problem in the inner ear. Such theories are flawed because they do not explain why tinnitus is still heard by individuals where the inner ear (cochlea) does not work or where the main nerve that carries messages to the brain (the 8th Nerve) has been surgically cut. 

Current studies suggest that tinnitus is generated at a point much further along the auditory pathway and it is considered be a central disorder. It has been discovered that in people experiencing tinnitus, the nerves behave in a way similar to the way they react when there is a sound present. But they are behaving this way when there is no sound present. Tinnitus is associated with an increase in the level of neural activity: increased spontaneous activity (hyperactivity), increased neural synchrony and increased bursting activity. 

Put more simply...

When damage occurs to the auditory pathway, or "hearing system," the nerves start to behave in an unusual way. They start to fire a lot in a pattern that the brain perceives as sound. Let us draw a rough comparison with Morse Code: For a Morse Code message to work, a series of beeps has to be sent in a pattern that makes sense to the person receiving the message. When we hear, nerves send electrical impulses to the brain in a pattern that the brain understands as sound.

When there is no external sound, spontaneous nerve impulses are still sent to the brain but these can be ignored because they don't make any sense to the brain. When nerve damage occurs, the nerve impulses generated by external sounds are reduced or stop altogether, however there is an increase the number of spontaneous nerve impulses and these occur in a more organised pattern that the brain may detect as sound that is not actually present, ie: tinnitus. To draw our comparison to Morse Code again: the messenger stops pressing the button to send beeps but somehow the beeps keep being sent in a way that mimic Morse Code.

The part of the brain that organises and responds to sound is called the Auditory Cortex. This part of the brain creates "tone maps" which allow the brain to recognise and respond to meaningful sounds. If the auditory system is damaged, these tone maps change. 

For a great article that explains the current theory on tinnitus, including tone maps, go to: http://discovermagazine.com/2010/oct/26-ringing-in-the-ears-goes-much-deeper

Notched Music Papers & Resources

The following papers and websites discuss the role of notched music in the treatment of tinnitus: 

Fractal Music Papers & Resources

Effects of acoustical stimuli delivered through hearing aids on tinnitus (you will need to scroll down the page when it opens): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20807482

Tinnitus Resources

Desynchronization Stimulation: Tinnitus Therapy
What is Desynchronization Stimulation?
Desynchronization Stimulation (DS) trains a pathway via a beat sequence at your tinnitus frequency, and then pause. In that in the period of silence there is an absence of tone where the brain has an expectation and can substitute in what it thinks would come next. It is actually a lot more powerful and effective than it sounds. The stimulation is the actual sequence of beats that is presented, the desynchronization occurs in the pause. It is called desynchronization because the nerves are being retrained to act independently rather than in synchronization with each other.

Download Program. 

Technical Overview

Some forms of tinnitus are the result of neural pathways synchronizing: when one neural connection fires so do others, even in cases where it may not be appropriate. The brain does not easily tolerate absence of stimulation. Try to free your mind from thought for a full 10 seconds and you will experience how resistant your brain can be. When someone loses an arm they can often still sense their fingers or may experience phantom pain. Close your eyes, is it really black or can you see lighter spots as well, even though there is no light? Heller & Bergman (1953) found that 94% individuals without tinnitus experienced sounds identical to those reported by tinnitus sufferers when placed in a sound-proof chamber within 5 minutes. Tinnitus is often present when the auditory pathway experiences reduced stimulation (EG: because of a hearing loss) or it may result from over stimulation (EG: loud noise). 

Invalid neural connections are created and removed within our lives on a daily basis. For example, rewarding a child with sweets for "being good" will build a connection: being good = receiving a treat. Every time the child does something "good" they will expect a sweet treat. Breaking connections is about retraining and changing connections by desynchronizing unwanted connections. To desynchronize is to change the way the connections fire, to break the connection and change the way you think. 

Every time we learn and retain something new we are re-organizing the neural pathways in our brain. This may be as simple as learning a song or a quote. The correct part of the brain is usually targeted automatically. Inappropriate behaviour may result in assumptions being challenged and learning results from the experience. 

Your tinnitus may respond to sound therapy if it is non-somatic. Somatic tinnitus refers to sounds that are produced by the body. With somatic tinnitus, the pitch or loudness of the sound can be changed with movement of associated parts of the body. Non-somatic tinnitus does not change, in pitch or volume, with the movement in the shoulders, eye, head, jaw or neck. It is often a single pitched tone or hiss. The pitch or intensity of the sound may change but this is unrelated to body movement. To retrain the neural connections causing the condition, the correct neural connections need to be targeted. Finding the correct area of the brain begins with matching your tinnitus frequency, how high or low pitched the tinnitus sounds. That is where the neural connections are firing without needing to. These pathways need to be changed, not in terms of changing their direction, but rather ensuring that they do the job they were built to do.

The power of expectation

There have been a number of studies regarding the power of expectation to influence actual behaviour. See http://www.drmadelinedaniels.com/2007/0 ... -prophecy/ 

A really nice example is if you tell people a wine is expensive, then they find it more pleasurable to drink. Obviously this is not changing the taste buds themselves, it is affecting the neural pathways. It also works negatively, pain expectation and imagination is involved in the increased perception of pain in patients. There have been several studies that demonstrate that achievement motivation is related to the activation of brain dopamine. Other EEG studies have demonstrated increased Delta wave activity associated with success expectations. So we have expectations affecting your sensations, your brain chemistry and your brain waves.

Using the mind's expectation as a therapy

Tinnitus is all about neural pathways. So the question is can expectancy affect the brain patterns in the auditory cortices? Well, apparently yes it can.
"... In addition to confirming that a form of expectancy operates in musical contexts, the results point towards the brain structures responsible for the processing of complex musical stimuli. In particular, EEG parameters changed not only at the recording sites located above the auditory cortices, but also at sites above right frontal and parietal regions"
Petr Janata and Hellmuth Petsche
Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Vol. 10, No. 3 (Spring, 1993), pp. 281-304
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/4 ... 0734892981 

There are a number of approaches to this but we will focus on Music notching and Desynchronization Stimulation (DS). As research by reputable universities have shown these to be the most effective therapies.

Music Notching

Music notching takes a piece of music and removes the frequencies on and around your tinnitus frequency. I will discuss it briefly here because it has a bearing on the main topic of DS.

Notched Music stimulates the neural pathways around the synchronized connections (where the tinnitus is occurring). As the process of music notching takes the frequency out of the music the actual pathways affected by the tinnitus are not activated by the auditory nerves and are therefore not responding to actual stimuli. However, the nerve cells around them (where the music is) are being affected. These activated pathways can have an influence on the nerves in their vicinity, essentially pulling them into line with the expected configuration of the music. In the process, retraining them. It stands to reason that this process should be more effective if the listener is familiar with the music, because the expectation will also help the process. 

People learn by rote by applying repetition until the principle is learned. Keep repeating until it is etched into the mind, such as positive affirmations, flash cards, time tables etc. Now once that is in place the mind holds it through its neural connections. If someone tells you that 1+1=3, it doesn't sound right, because a neural pathway has been trained. That training can actually occur in very short periods. Baroque classical music composers like Bach realized that after 2 sequences of music the listener had an expectation that the sequence would continue, and after 2 and a half the listener had a confirmation that this was to be the case. At this point the composer would change an aspect of the music to re-engage the listener. The neural pathway was being trained, and then the music changed before the listener bored of rote learning. This can play a role in music notching with tracks that the listener is familiar with. 

If the expected notes aren't there then the brain can often fill in the gaps due to prior learning creating an expectation. The brain is quite capable of storing complex music. You may be able to "hear" violins in your head if you think about a certain musical piece even though you may not be reproduce the sounds on an actual violin. The notes have been stored in your memory, and if you hear a musical piece you can anticipate what will come next. If those notes aren't present in the actual music, to a certain degree, the brain will simply compensate. The treatment is based on Okamoto protocol.

Desynchronization Stimulation

What Desynchronization Stimulation (DS) does is to train a pathway via a beat sequence at the tinnitus frequency, and then pause. In that in the period of silence there is an absence of tone where the brain has an expectation and can substitute in what it thinks would come next. 

After hearing the beat sequence a number of times the brain has trained itself for the expectation that the sequence will continue, and says to itself oh I know how this goes ... beeep ... beeep ... beep beep even though there is no actual sound there. This simulation of the sequence is just doing what humans do best: Thinking through expected outcomes. That process is retraining neural pathways. The stimulation is the actual sequence of beats that is presented, the desynchronization occurs in the pause. It is called desynchronization because the nerves are being retrained to act independently rather than in synchronization.

So desynchronization stimulation is a method of creating and rehearsing expectation. The neural pathway is re-enforcing and rebuilding the connections in the area of the tinnitus fault by exercising the mind and letting the brain's plasticity repair the damage. One final point worth mentioning, force your mind to work on it. You can do this with 2 techniques; the software has a large selection of beat tracks that you can select so you can change the sequences. The other is to use this technique with as low a volume as possible. 

Therapy Limitations 

There are some specific situations where these therapies may or may not be appropriate.

If the tinnitus is varying. If the tinnitus is constantly changing or varies beyond a 1/2 octave then it is unlikely that the therapies would be effective. As there is no single pathway to retrain. It may be worthwhile in this situation to retrain one area at a time. The results being achieved with DS in relatively short time-frames indicate that this might be feasible, music notching is typically a longer therapy and would probably not be effective.

Another situation has to do with hearing loss. An extreme hearing loss at the tinnitus frequency would mean that music notching would lose some of its potency as the mind would not have a familiarity with music around the tinnitus frequency. To negate this problem the music can be enhanced to promote the frequencies around the hearing loss. This is not a problem with DS as the volume can simply be turned up. However, if the hearing loss is complete at those frequencies then neither therapy would be useful.

Another problem has to do with the frequency of the tinnitus. If the frequency is not within normal musical range then it is likely that music notching will not be applicable as a lot of music does not produce recognizable sounds that can be notched out. For example, assuming someone has a tinnitus frequency of 18khz, a track with violins may produce frequencies well past 18khz but it is unlikely that notching that music will make any discernible difference to the listener. DS does not have that problem, if the listener can hear it then the therapy is within range.

It would seem appropriate then to suggest that a good therapy approach would be to use a combination of DS and Music notching. There could be justification in assuming that the level of attention/expectation is important in this process. Therefore DS should be done with a variety of beat sequences to avoid boredom and music notching may be given more potency with music that the listener is familiar with. Both therapies are available in the audiclave package.

Fractal music 

Fractal music can provide relief from tinnitus and can offer a more enjoyable background sound than traditional tinnitus maskers, which typically rely on constant white noise. Fractal technology uses mathematical formulas to generate music that is repetitive with unpredictable variations. This program is  fun and interactive. It allows you to create your own fractal music so you can build a personal play list that suits your needs and music style.

How can Fractal Music help tinnitus?

There is a strong link between tinnitus and the limbic system. For many sufferers of tinnitus, the tinnitus sound produces a negative emotional response and this triggers the body's "fight or flight" response that is usually associated with physical threat. Fractal Music can help to reduce this effect in a number of ways:

Free tinnitus frequency matching

Our free tool allows you to match the frequency (pitch) of your tinnitus and the intensity (volume) of it.

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