Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) uses counseling and sound therapy to alter a negative response to tinnitus. It can help people become used to tinnitus and no longer notice the sounds it causes.

Although TRT cannot cure tinnitus, it aims to reduce the negative effect tinnitus symptoms may have on a person’s life.

TRT uses a combination of counseling and sound therapy to help people become accustomed to tinnitus and develop a neutral response to the condition’s sounds.

This article explains how TRT works, its effectiveness and safety, other treatment options, and when to contact a doctor.

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TRT is a treatment method that aims to retrain the brain so that people are less aware of their tinnitus and have a less negative emotional response to it. These changes may reduce the effect of tinnitus on a person’s life.

TRT uses the following strategies to help someone with tinnitus:

  • Counseling: This may involve counselor-centered therapy or directive counseling and education about tinnitus. It aims to teach people to perceive their symptoms with a neutral response.
  • Sound therapy: This can involve devices that deliver low level continuous noise to alter how the body responds to tinnitus and make the sounds less noticeable.

Before starting TRT, an audiologist will assess a person’s medical history and symptoms. Individuals may also have a medical assessment with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor.

A medical evaluation can determine whether an underlying health condition is causing tinnitus. If this is the case, a doctor will treat the health condition to see whether tinnitus resolves.

According to a 2021 study, people may need 12–18 months of TRT to become used to tinnitus. The first improvements may start to show after 3 months of TRT and increase 6 months after beginning TRT.

TRT may result in noticeable improvements to any type of tinnitus in 74–84% of cases when individuals complete therapy.

However, the study authors suggest that TRT’s effectiveness may link to how much a person believes it will work. Even a single TRT session may effectively relieve tinnitus symptoms for people who believe in the approach.

According to a 2019 study, TRT may be most effective for a person with severe tinnitus. Continued treatment with TRT may provide the best results.

A 2021 systematic review of 13 studies involving 1,345 people found that TRT was an effective treatment for tinnitus, although the evidence was low quality with a high risk of bias.

The researchers noted that future quality, large-scale studies will help confirm the findings.

Current research does not highlight any risks of TRT or report any significant side effects. The main risk may be that TRT is not effective at treating a person’s symptoms.

If people have any concerns about TRT, they can talk with a doctor or audiologist about the effects of the therapy and what it will involve.

Other treatment options for tinnitus may include:

  • treating an underlying cause such as a buildup of earwax, if applicable
  • sound generators playing background noise, such as waves or rain, to make tinnitus less noticeable
  • hearing aids, which may be suitable for people with tinnitus and hearing loss, to make it easier to hear external sounds and reduce awareness of tinnitus sounds
  • combination devices, which are both a hearing aid and sound generator
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps alter negative thought patterns around tinnitus and focus on positive strategies to reduce the effect of tinnitus
  • medications to help manage any side effects, such as difficulty sleeping or mood disorders

If tinnitus affects a person’s well-being or day-to-day life, it is important to talk with a doctor. A doctor can look at possible underlying causes and suggest treatment options to reduce the effects of tinnitus.

If people would like to try TRT, they can discuss the treatment with a doctor. A doctor may refer individuals to an audiologist or ENT doctor to begin the process of TRT.

Tinnitus retraining therapy is a treatment option for tinnitus that aims to get people used to the tinnitus sounds so that they are no longer aware or bothered by the sounds.

TRT uses a combination of counseling and sound therapy to help retrain a person’s response to tinnitus. Over time, TRT may help individuals stop noticing tinnitus sounds and develop a neutral response to it.

A person can speak with a healthcare professional if they wish to start TRT. A doctor may first perform a medical exam to ensure tinnitus is not due to an underlying, treatable cause.