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Tinnitus Masking

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Updated October 21, 2010

Tinnitus masking uses more pleasant sounds to "mask" other sounds in the environment. Also known as sound therapy, this involves the use of masking devices. Masking devices can include tabletop devices, hearing aids, and special pillows.

These pleasant sounds can be natural or synthetic. Natural sounds include things like the sound of falling rain, while synthetic sounds include things like white noise. Other types of noise for masking tinnitus are pink noise for high-pitched tinnitus, and brown noise, which sounds like the sea, for low-pitched to mid-pitched tinnitus. People can use these therapeutic sounds at certain times, like bedtime, or all the time via devices such as hearing aids.

Many companies make products for tinnitus masking. One example is Tinnitus Masker, which uses natural sounds in the form of MP3 files. Another example is the Sound Pillow, which can hook up to a CD player.

Tinnitus masking is not a covered treatment under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The CMS Medicare National Coverage Determinations Manual states:

"Tinnitus masking is considered an experimental therapy at this time because of the lack of controlled clinical trials demonstrating effectiveness and the unstudied possibility of serious toxicity in the form of noise-induced hearing loss. Therefore, it is not covered."

As a result, private insurance companies often do not cover tinnitus masking treatment either.

Masking tinnitus is a focus of the Department of Veterans Affairs, through the VA National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research based in Portland, Oregon. In a captioned YouTube video, the Center explains that they are working to manage tinnitus by, for example, developing better hearing aids.

Sources:

Medicare National Coverage Determinations Manual, Chapter 1, Part 1 Coverage Determinations. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. https://www.cms.gov/manuals/downloads/ncd103c1_Part1.pdf

Treatment Information. American Tinnitus Association. http://www.ata.org/for-patients/treatment

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