Tinnitus can be a complex condition and if hyperacusis is present it can be more. Many newbies have difficulty coping with tinnitus and understandably, getting rid of this constant intruder becomes paramount on their mind. In an attempt to do this, they will usually try every means possible to distract themselves from the tinnitus which will include masking it completely with another sound so that it can’t be heard.
However, tinnitus is quite resilient, any attempts to mask it completely are usually unsuccessful. As soon as the masking sound is removed or stopped temporarily, the brain will immediately focus back on it and often, it appears to be louder and more intrusive. This can cause stress especially for someone new to tinnitus. For anyone that doesn’t know, the more stressed we are the tinnitus becomes more intrusive, and the louder the tinnitus is the more stressed we are. It can become a vicious circle.
Anyone that is seasoned to tinnitus and has habituated, knows that trying to mask it completely so that it can’t be heard is not achievable. A much better way and preferred method that Hearing Therapists advise tinnitus patients, is to use sound enrichment. One can use music or nature sounds from a sound machine and set the volume slightly below the tinnitus. By doing this, the brain over time will learn to no longer see the tinnitus as a threat and gradually push the noise further into the background giving it less importance and helps the habituation process.
In-ear or BTE (behind the ear) white noise generators can also be used and often these devices are used as part of TRT and do a similar thing. By setting the volume slightly below the tinnitus, over time the brain habituates to the white noise and gradually pushes the tinnitus further into the background.
PS: If someone uses tinnitus maskers better known as white noise generators. They are best put on in the morning. The volume is set to just below the tinnitus and then left alone. The volume shouldn't be adjusted throughout the day. Some people tend to do this if they are out and about and the sound of road traffic prevents them from hearing the white noise. Please try not to do this. Constantly adjusting the white noise can make it more difficult for the brain to habituate to it and this can slow the habituation process.