BACKGROUND: The phenomenon of short-term tinnitus suppression by different forms of acoustic stimulation is referred to as residual inhibition (RI). RI can be triggered in the majority of tinnitus cases and was found to be depending on the used intensity, length or types of sounds. Past research already stressed the impact of noise stimulation as well as the superiority of amplitude modulated (AM) pure tones at the individual tinnitus frequency for RI in tonal tinnitus. Recently a novel approach for the determination of noise-like tinnitus characteristics was proposed.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to investigate whether in participants with noise-like tinnitus RI can be increased by AM noise stimuli according to the individual tinnitus frequency range.
METHODS: For this purpose the individual tinnitus characteristics (noise-like and tonal tinnitus) of 29 people affected by tinnitus (mean age = 55.59, 7 females, mean tinnitus duration = 159.97 months) were assessed via customizable noise-band matching. The objective was to generate bandpass filtered stimuli according to the individual tinnitus sound (individualized bandpass filtered [IBP] sounds). Subsequently, various stimuli differing in bandpass filtering and AM were tested with respect to their potential to induce RI. Participants were acoustically stimulated with 7 different types of stimuli for 3 min each and had to rate the loudness of their tinnitus after each stimuli.
RESULTS: Results indicate a general efficacy of noise stimuli for the temporary suppression of tinnitus, but no significant differences between AM and unmodulated IBP. Significantly better effects were observed for the subgroup with noise-like tinnitus (n = 14), especially directly after stimulation offset.
CONCLUSIONS: The study at hand provides further insights in potential mechanisms behind RI for different types of tinnitus. Beyond that, derived principles may qualify for new or extend current tinnitus sound therapies.