Tinnitus is a widespread problem with approximately 20 million Americans suffering from bothersome reactions to it. Although there are a few scientifically-validated therapies for many types of tinnitus, many patients are apt to try various types of over-the-counter solutions, including products with white noise masking.
An August 30 JAMA-Otolaryngology report indicates white noise therapy for tinnitus relief should be avoided. According to the San Francisco-based researchers, white noise exposure engages anatomical and neurochemical plastic changes in a way that induces maladaptive changes in the brain that degrade neurological health and compromise cognition.
At the core of their analysis, the researchers surmise that both tinnitus and white noise accelerate the aging process of the brain. Accordingly, the authors say the mechanisms commonly associated with hearing loss and tinnitus reflect cortical damage throughout the central auditory pathway and these same changes occur to the brain by exposure to unstructured white noise, even at nontraumatic levels in the adult nervous system.
Given these findings, individuals with bothersome tinnitus should use caution when using unstructured white noise therapy and are best served by seeking an evaluation with the appropriately licensed professional.