Whist – Custom Sound Therapy for Tinnitus Relief
Whist – Tinnitus Relief is a computer program for creating the sounds used in sound therapy for tinnitus. Whist is not a therapy itself — it is a tool. With Whist you can try known therapies such as masking and residual inhibition that offer immediate short-term relief of tinnitus. You can control sound characteristics and presentation schedules and customize them so that they work best for you.
What is Sound Therapy?
Sound therapy is the presentation of sounds to a person with the goal of reducing the loudness or annoyance of tinnitus. See our sound therapies page for a description of the most common types of sound therapy.
Is Sound Therapy Effective?
The question needs to be sharpened.
Is sound therapy effective in providing a cure for tinnitus? No, it is not. After a rigorous evaluation of clinical evidence, impartial experts found insufficient evidence that any sound therapy program provides long-term tinnitus relief (see Pichora-Fuller et al., 2013).
However, it is also true that some forms of sound therapy – such as masking – have been used successfully by tinnitus sufferers for many years. Many have found that external sounds that cover up (i.e., mask) their tinnitus can take their minds off the tinnitus or even help them grow accustomed to it.
Other forms of sound therapy – such as low-level stimulation and residual inhibition — have not been used as widely as masking, but they do show promise for providing immediate relief.
These methods all act to relieve tinnitus loudness or annoyance while the therapy sound is applied, or for a brief time after. They do not provide long-term relief, or a cure, of tinnitus.
Why Custom Sound Therapy?
Several factors come together to suggest the need for a user-controlled custom sound therapy tool.
Research and clinical experience have shown that:
- Tinnitus is idiosyncratic; everyone’s is different from anyone else’s
- The sounds that people find effective for tinnitus relief are also highly individualistic
- There is no consensus on the clinical management of tinnitus.
In addition, technology has advanced so that:
- There is no obstacle to the creation of custom sounds on home computers;
- There are many options for playing audio by cell phones and other portable devices, eliminating the need for hearing-aid type devices for delivering masking sounds.
There is also no obstacle to patients making tinnitus measurements themselves. Tinnitus is entirely subjective, and, as yet, there is no objective measure of it. The method of matching to an external sound that a clinician would do to measure your tinnitus can be done at home, using essentially the same procedure. Likewise, in searching for sounds that provide relief, you are the only judge of what works best.
All in all, it is most direct and convenient for tinnitus sufferers to measure their own tinnitus, and to search for sounds that provide relief, at their own pace and in the comfort of their home.
If you have serious concerns about your tinnitus or your hearing generally, you should consult your doctor.
For further information on tinnitus, its causes and proposed treatments, including sound therapies, please consult these websites:
For those seeking help coping with tinnitus, these sources are recommended:
Franz, B. and Offutt, G. (2003). “Tinnitus suppression with threshold and subthreshold stimuli,” Inter. Tinnitus Journal 9, 11-16.
Goldstein, B.A., Shulman, A., Lenhardt, M.L., Richards, D.G., Madsen, A.G., and Guinta, R. (2001). “Long-term inhibition of tinnitus by UltraQuiet therapy: Preliminary report,” Inter. Tinnitus Journal 7, 122-127.
Goldstein, B.A., Lenhardt, M.L. and Shulman, A. (2005). “Tinnitus improvement with ultra-high-frequency vibration therapy,” Inter. Tinnitus Journal 11, 14-22.
Hazell, J. and Wood, S. (1981). “Tinnitus masking: A significant contribution to tinnitus management,” British Journal of Audiology 15, 223-230.
Meikle M.B., Creedon T.A., Griest S.E. (2004). “Tinnitus Archive, second edition,” <http://www.tinnitusArchive.org/>
Reavis, K.M., Rothholtz, V.S., Tang, O., Carroll, J.A., Djalilian, H., Zeng, F.G. (2012). “Temporary suppression of tinnitus by modulated sounds,” J. Assoc. Res. Otolaryngology 13, 561-571.
Vernon, J.A. and Meikle, M.B. (1981). “Tinnitus masking: Unresolved problems,” in Tinnitus Ciba Foundation Symposium 85 (Pitman Book, Ltd., London).
Vernon, J.A. and Meikle, M.B. (2000). “Tinnitus Masking,” in Tinnitus Handbook, edited by R. Tyler (Singular Publishing Group, San Diego, CA).
Pichora-Fuller, M.K., Santaguida, P., Hammill, A., Oremus, M., Westerberg, B., Ali, U., Patterson, C., Raina, P. (2013). “Evaluation and Treatment of Tinnitus: Comparative Effectiveness. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 122,” (Prepared by the McMaster University Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10060-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 13-EHC110-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; available here