3 Tips to Evaluate Tinnitus Management Smartphone Apps
By Jenny Groth
Director, Audiology Communications for GN Hearing
Many people use smartphone apps to manage tinnitus. But with hundreds of apps out there, how do you pick? Before you download, check these three helpful tips.
Tinnitus – what is it?
If you are reading this, you likely know. But just in case….
Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While often described as a ringing, it may also sound like a clicking, buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or roaring.
Tinnitus can be a by-product of loud noise exposure (such as a rock concert) and disappear after some hours. With continued exposure over time, the ringing may no longer fade away and can become disturbing and uncomfortable.
Worldwide, roughly 15% of the population experience tinnitus. For some, it causes a substantial decrease in quality of life.
What can you do?
As a first step, it is always strongly recommended that you visit a hearing care professional who is trained and experienced in working with tinnitus patients.
Sometimes, tinnitus may be caused by an easily remedied issue, like impacted earwax; tinnitus may also be a symptom of an underlying condition requiring medical attention, such as hypertension. A hearing care professional can help in identifying or ruling out specific causes of tinnitus. They can also help you with therapeutic options for managing your tinnitus.
Many people have also found relief with smartphone apps (like ReSound Relief which my company offers) specifically designed to help in managing their tinnitus. But with hundreds of apps out there claiming to do this, how do you pick?
Even without advice from a hearing care professional, there are three things to look for that can guide you in the right direction.
1. Check out the reviews
The most common smartphone platforms are iOS for Apple products and Android from Google.
Before you download, be sure to check out the ratings, reviews and information available. They will help you narrow down the list of ones you might want to try.
Apps with higher ratings are of interest, but also note how many users that rating is based on, as a rating based on only a few users is not reliable. Also check the version history. An app that hasn’t been updated in several years suggests that the developer isn’t committed, and you won’t see new features or fixes for any glitches.
When reading the reviews, it might be helpful to take note of those where users say they were helped with the issues that you find most important. For example, if you are most bothered when trying to fall asleep, positive reviews about how people used the app for this purpose suggest it might be a good one to try.
2. Expert assessment
If you type “tinnitus” into the search field of the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, the search will return hundreds of apps.
While using ratings, reviews and app information is a great first step, it is also helpful to know which apps meet criteria for functionality and quality from a professional perspective. In one recent study experts with diverse backgrounds in fields like information technology, psychology and psychiatry, aging, and clinical epidemiology evaluated tinnitus apps in terms of their quality as medical or mobile health apps.
Beginning with a search that yielded more than 600 apps for tinnitus, these researchers narrowed the field to 34 that they thoroughly evaluated. While all met basic functional requirements, only a handful were very highly ranked, one of which was the ReSound Relief app. Only one other app was scored as favorably as the ReSound Relief app by this expert panel.
You can dig into the details and results of the study here.
A general issue with tinnitus apps that the expert panel identified is that they most often are lacking in scientific validation. In the study cited above, only 7 tinnitus apps were found to be evidence-based.
This is important because an evidence-based app incorporates best practices and research in its approach to helping you. The ReSound Relief app was one of the 7 identified as evidence-based, and this comes as no surprise because multiple features of the app were developed based on collaborative work with leading clinical researchers in tinnitus.
The ReSound Relief app stands out from other tinnitus apps on all counts. It is highly rated by thousands of users, regularly maintained by ReSound, meets expert guidelines for health and medical apps, and is evidence-based.
How does ReSound Relief work?
Burdensome effects that people with tinnitus may experience can include anxiety, stress, and poor sleep…just to name a few. The purpose of tinnitus management techniques is to decrease the burden associated with it. Therefore, ReSound Relief is not a cure for tinnitus, but it can be a helpful tool in learning to manage your tinnitus.
ReSound Relief can be used by all people suffering from tinnitus – you don’t have to be a hearing aid user (although 80% of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss). The basic app is free on Google Play and The Apple App store, with an ability to upgrade should you want to create a personalized tinnitus management plan.
With your smartphone or tablet and your Bluetooth/wireless speaker headset, you’re ready to use the ReSound Relief app and be on your way to a more comfortable life with tinnitus. If you wear hearing aids that can stream from a smartphone, you can use your hearing aids instead of a speaker or headset.
ReSound Relief includes educational information on tinnitus, therapeutic soundscapes that you can build yourself, and relaxation guidance and exercises among other features. If you are working with a hearing care professional, the features of the ReSound Relief app can complement the therapeutic techniques they use.
Bottom line: If you are experiencing tinnitus, I encourage you to first seek help from a hearing care professional. If you are interested in smartphone apps as a tool to help you as a part of professional treatment or to find relief on your own, you can be confident in choosing the ReSound Relief app.
Sponsored content by SoundPrint’s hearing health partner, ReSound.