Apps for tinnitus: My top picks
Tinnitus expert rounds up his favorite apps to use for tinnitus and relaxation
When you live with bothersome tinnitus, having the right coping tools close at hand can make a big difference in the quality of your day.
But if you have a smartphone, you already own one of the most powerful tinnitus coping toolkits ever created.
There are many apps that can help you to better manage tinnitus in a variety of different ways. The only problem is that there are quite a lot of apps to choose from, and not all of them are created equal.
So I’m here to help. I’ve put together a list of my favorite tinnitus-related apps across many different categories, all to help you find relief from the ringing in your ears.
Do tinnitus apps work?
Yes. From sound masking, guided meditation and breathing techniques, to educational content, habituation assistance, and sensorineural hearing loss improvement, there really is an app for every need. If you like white noise (or brown noise or pink noise), there are many apps available for playing color noises, too.
Despite what your doctor might have told you or what you might have read online, if you suffer from tinnitus, you do not “just have to live with it.” There are many ways to find tinnitus relief, and these apps are just one more toolset available to every tinnitus patient. Also, if you wear hearing aids, many manufacturers now make accompanying hearing aid apps that include tinnitus masking programs.
Best apps for sound masking
NatureSpace (Android and iOS)
At its best, sound masking is one the most powerful coping tools available to tinnitus sufferers. The strategy is remarkably simple: You just use various types of background noise to partially cover the sound of your tinnitus. For most sufferers, the right background noise or music can often provide immediate (though temporary) relief and help you focus less on the tinnitus. Listening to nature sounds at bedtime has been shown to help reduce wake-ups and provide deeper sleep. (If you prefer white noise and find it helpful, that's OK, just keep in mind some research indicates color noises may over-stimulate your brain.)
It’s an effective way to cope, but in practice it can get tricky, because not all sound masking sounds are created equal, and there are a seemingly endless number of sound masking/sound therapy apps available in the app store. Here are my top two app recommendations, available for both Android in the Google Play store, and iOS devices in the App Store:
MyNoise features a massive library of soundscapes and ambiances, including various experimental sounds specifically created for tinnitus patients. Best of all, every soundscape is completely customizable via sliders that let you control the individual volume of various elements of the soundscape. Want more birds, but less rain, stronger wind, and no chimes? Simple. Or maybe you want the sound of more chatter in the café ambiance, but less clinking of cups and silverware? Two clicks and it’s done. MyNoise makes it easy to dial in the perfect soundscape or combination of sounds to mask your tinnitus.
Naturespace has been one of my favorite masking apps for a long time for one very specific reason: No other app can hold a candle to the quality of their nature soundscapes. And that’s because all of the soundscapes are actual high-fidelity audio recordings of real nature. According to NatureSpace, “Our specialized team of audio engineers record outdoor environments in 3D using proprietary holographic microphone techniques drawn from binaural, classical, and field recording practices. The results are astonishing: Naturespace recordings preserve the entire hemispheric sound field, including the sounds that occur in front, behind, beside, and above the listener over headphones.” The app itself is free, along with 6 included soundscapes, with the remaining 120+ recordings available via in-app purchases a la carte.
Best apps for comprehensive tinnitus relief and habituation
There may not currently be a cure for tinnitus, but lasting relief is entirely possible through a mental process called habituation. And only a select few apps are specifically designed to help you habituate to the sound of your tinnitus.
The human brain is fully capable of tuning out the sound of tinnitus (even when it’s loud) just like it does all other meaningless background noise. The problem is that when tinnitus becomes severe, it triggers a powerful and progressively worsening fight-or-flight stress response that never fully ends because the tinnitus doesn’t just magically go away. And it’s this reaction that prevents the brain from being able to ignore the sound. We are evolutionarily hardwired to focus on sounds that our brain and nervous system interpret as the sound of something dangerous.
But you can completely change your underlying emotional, psychological and physiological reaction to the sound of your tinnitus. And when you do, your brain can start to automatically tune out and ignore the sound of your tinnitus more and more of the time. Here are two apps whose sole purpose is to help you habituate and find lasting relief:
Rewiring Tinnitus Relief Project: First I have to disclose that this is my app that I created to help tinnitus sufferers habituate and find relief as quickly as possible. It was originally designed to accompany my book (Rewiring Tinnitus: How I finally Found Relief from the Ringing in my Ears), but ultimately evolved into a standalone program for tinnitus habituation. The 54-track album feature a powerful audio technology called Brainwave Entrainment that can change your mental state in minutes, and all you have to do is press play. It features guided tinnitus meditation tracks, sleep induction tracks, guided tinnitus spike relief techniques, relaxation tracks, and more, all embedded with various masking sounds and brainwave entrainment to put you in a sedated state of relaxation automatically. I may be biased, but as an experienced tinnitus coach, I know what works.
Quieten: An excellent new app from author, therapist, and tinnitus expert Julian Cowan Hill. It features a wide variety of free audio and video educational content to help you habituate and better understand tinnitus, as well as meditations, coping tools, relaxation techniques and more!
OTO: A comprehensive tinnitus therapy app that is packed full of science-based tools to help you habituate and better cope. It features cognitive behavioral therapy lessons and techniques, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, a library of masking sounds, and mindfulness training, all to help you find relief from tinnitus.
Best paid app for meditation
When it comes to tinnitus coping, it’s important to reduce your stress and anxiety levels as much as possible, and mindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Mindfulness has been shown to be helpful for tinnitus coping, but it’s also a remarkably effective way to better manage your mind.
There are a ton of excellent mindfulness meditation apps on the market, but for me, the Waking Up meditation app from author Sam Harris stands above the rest. The app itself is not marketed or built for tinnitus patients specifically, but mindfulness is an important tool that should be every tinnitus sufferer's toolkit.
I’ve personally used Waking Up on a daily basis for more than a year now and it has had a profoundly positive impact on my quality of life with tinnitus on almost every level. I cannot recommend this app enough!
Best free app for meditation
Insight Timer (Android and iOS)
Insight Timer is the most popular free meditation app by far, and for good reason: it features more than 60,000 free guided meditations, breathing exercises, and music tracks.
It’s not just traditional meditation either, Insight Timer features guided meditations for better sleep, relaxation, anxiety relief, focus, and more, making it an excellent option for tinnitus sufferers who want to experiment with different types of meditation to help them cope.
Insight Timer also includes a great meditation timer feature built into the app that allows you to set up custom meditation sessions. This is a focus training tool that plays a soft chime (or whatever sound you select) at preset intervals to help keep you focused while you meditate. This way, if your mind is wandering, and the chime goes off, it instantly brings you back to the meditation. You can also incorporate various background sounds into your meditation sessions, such as ambient music, nature sounds, and white noise.
Best apps for breathing techniques
Breathing techniques are a powerful way to cope with tinnitus, especially during spikes and on difficult days. Fortunately, there are a handful of excellent apps featuring guided breathing exercises to help you learn and practice the most effective techniques, of which there are many.
Some breathing techniques can trigger a relaxation response in the nervous system very quickly, while other techniques can help with everything from falling asleep faster, lowering stress levels, improving emotional regulation, increasing energy and focus, and so much more!
Here my top two app recommendations for learning the most powerful breathing techniques:
Breathwrk is one of the top breathing exercise apps for iOS, featuring thousands of positive reviews in the app store, with a combined 4.9/5 star rating. As far features, Breathwrk includes 10+ guided breathing techniques, visual, audio, and vibration cues, breathing lessons, progress tracking, and so much more.
Prana Breath is one of the most popular and powerful free guided breathing apps for Android, featuring 8 preset breathing protocols, visual, audio, and vibration cues to make it easy to follow along, as well as the ability to set up custom breathing sessions with timing intervals of your choosing. Prana Breath also allows you to increase the difficulty and complexity level of each technique as you practice, while recording of all of your breathing sessions so you can see your results and track progress over time. The app itself is free and ad-free, though there is a premium “Guru” version of the app (that I highly recommend) that can be unlocked via in-app purchase that adds an additional 50 breathing techniques.
Best app for improving hearing loss
AudioCardio (Android and iOS)
Many patients with tinnitus also have hearing loss. It's a difficult combination, but it opens the door to additional treatment strategies, because improving a person's hearing can often improve their tinnitus as well. AudioCardio delivers a new type of sound therapy that functions kind of like physical therapy for hearing, and one that could actually improve and strengthen hearing in patients with sensorineural hearing loss, based on preliminary data.
In a clinical trial at Stanford University, more than 70% of 42 study participants experienced at least a 10-decibel improvement in their hearing at the targeted frequency after two weeks of using AudioCardio’s algorithmically generated sound therapy for one hour per day. Self-reported user data over the longer term shows that some people experienced as much as 15-25 decibel improvements across the whole frequency range.
So how does it work? First, the app performs a hearing test to identify the lowest decibel level sound that you are able to hear at a range of different frequencies. The app then targets the user’s worst frequency and delivers a unique sound therapy called Threshold Sound Conditioning.
In most cases of sensorineural hearing loss, the hair cells are damaged, but not destroyed. A person can still hear sounds at the affected frequency if they are loud enough. The app plays algorithmically generated tones right at the threshold of what a person can hear.
The tones themselves are inaudible, or barely audible. The app's creators say that by stimulating the hair cells right at the threshold, the app can strengthen the hair cells, leading to improved hearing.
If you suffer from tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss, I recommend giving AudioCardio a shot. You can try it free for two weeks, after which the prices range from $9 to 15 per month. (Use promo code RT20DC for a 20% discount.)
Other apps and honorable mentions:
ACRN Tinnitus Protocol (Turn your volume down before attempting this): Acoustic Coordinated Reset Neuromodulation (ACRN) is a tinnitus treatment protocol utilized by several popular tinnitus apps such as Neuromonics. Many users report these apps as helpful in treating tinnitus, though both options can be expensive. This web app offers a free implementation of the ACRN Tinnitus Protocol, so tinnitus suffers can experiment without having to commit to any one (potentially expensive) treatment program.
First, you use the slider to identify the frequency of your tinnitus sound, and then the app generates ACRN sound therapy targeted specifically to that frequency.
It’s worth checking out, though it really works best for tinnitus sufferers who experience tinnitus as a single, constant tone.
Audible: This may seem like an offbeat recommendation, but more often than not, highly engaging spoken word audio content can be a more powerful coping tool than masking alone. Audiobooks can be a welcome distraction from tinnitus for many sufferers. Podcasts work well for this, too.
Want more? See Glenn's columns and our other articles about tinnitus.
Other apps you may enjoy
We've rounded up apps in several hearing categories to help you make the most of your smartphone or tablet.