This article is from the Tinnitus FAQ, by email@example.com (Mark Bixby) with numerous contributions by others.
A poster to alt.support tinnitus reports about a therapy involving
listening to a series of electronically-produced tinnitus noises:
This may be old news to some readers, but perhaps many
others might be interested. A very interesting paper by L.
P. Ince, et al appeared in the journal Health Psychology in
1987, "A matching-to-sample feedback technique for training
self-control of tinnitus." Here's a summary:
Ince and his colleagues worked with 30 individuals suffering
from tinnitus, and used a "matching-to-sample" feedback
procedure. Each subject's tinnitus sounds were reproduced
electronically and played into either one ear (for those
with single-side T) or both ears. The sound was then reduced
by 5 dB during each session. The subject was asked to
"think" their tinnitus sounds down to match the signal that
was supplied. No instructions were provided as to how to do
this...each subject just tried the best he or she could.
Each trial lasted 60 seconds, with 30 second rests between
trials. If the tinnitus was brought down to the lower level
during any one trial, the subject was then supplied with the
electronically-produced sound that was lowered by an
additional 5 dB, otherwise the same signal was provided. A
total of 15 trials were run each session (so, less than one
half hour overall for the session). Subjects went through 3
to 12 of these sessions.
Almost all of the 30 subjects experienced a reduction in
their tinnitus. One subject completely eliminated the
tinnitus in 3 sessions. By the end of the experiment, eight
subjects eliminated the tinnitus. One subject who had had
tinnitus for 30 years reduced the level from 40 to 10 dB.
The subjects' tinnitus at the start varied greatly in
quality and loudness and had varied greatly in the duration
This experiment showed that many people could be trained to
"not hear" their tinnitus. This was not just a case of the
subjects' being less bothered by the sounds, but actually
reducing the sound levels. This was shown by playing random
sound levels for the subjects who indicated when the sound
level matched their tinnitus.
I wrote Dr. Ince in 1991. He replied that he was not a
tinnitus specialist and had ceased his studies. However, he
was very willing to aid professionals who wished to try to
replicate his results. He also informed me that it is not
possible to reproduce his study with standard household
electronic equipment (such as tapes), and only trained
audiologists should try to do such a study.
Dr. Ince's study reminded me of an interesting question I
once heard asked about tinnitus: Why doesn't *everyone* hear
wild noises? The blood going through the inner ear creates
vibrations that are FAR greater than even fairly loud sounds
outside the ear. Perhaps we all have trained our brains to
ignore such sounds.
A prominent American tinnitus specialist says that Ince's work was a
"misleading dead end".