Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is a treatment that aims to reduce the perceived loudness and severity of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t a disease and TRT isn’t a cure as such, it is perhaps better described as a way to train someone not to hear the ringing in their ear any more or at least to be less aware and less irritated by it.
TRT uses a combination of counselling and sound therapy. Sound therapy is the creation of background sounds that, when listened to over time, train you to stop having negative associations with noise and then, hopefully, to stop you perceiving the tinnitus completely. You can get your own sound masking gadgets specifically for tinnitus sufferers, such as sound pillows and iPod apps – these are similar to the sound therapy in TRT in that they introduce background noise to mask the tinnitus but TRT has been thoroughly researched and tested with sounds used giving proven results, TRT uses the Jastreboff model.
The goal of TRT is to reduce a person’s perception of their tinnitus to such a point that they are no longer affected by it, this is known and habituation. Wikipedia notes that, “Repeated presentation of a stimulus will cause a decrease in reaction to the stimulus“, essentially, you get used to it and you no longer bother to notice it. So, if someone is experiencing tinnitus for a long time, why doesn’t habituation occur naturally? Apparently it does, many tinnitus cases will decrease and eventually disappear given time. Your brain eventually gets bored of the sounds by itself, but TRT helps to speed that up.
Confused about habituation? Think about this: when you enter a room for the first time you notice everything, you look at all the pictures on the wall, the furniture, the colour of the carpet, you drink the room in, your brain is working hard to absorb all the new information about the room. When you enter the room the second time the affect isn’t so extreme, it’s still new to you but you know where most of the furniture is already. As the weeks go on you know what to expect when you enter the room, you’ve noticed all the dirty marks on the wall and the crack in the TV cabinet. After a long time you are so used to things being where they are that you stop seeing them, of course they are not invisible but your brain treats them as background noise that isn’t important.