A two-part study shows that the sounds perceived by workers with tinnitus could be reduced, while sensitivity to external sounds could be improved. The researchers first asked adults with normal hearing to wear earplugs or noise generators for one week to establish the existence of the “central auditory gain,” the mechanism by which the ear modulates its response when conditions change. The results suggest that wearing earplugs increases sensitivity to sound while wearing noise generators reduces it. This modulation of perception takes place late in the hearing process.
The researchers also wished to demonstrate that the auditory gain can be modulated in people with tinnitus. Fourteen of them were divided into two groups: one with hearing loss and another without. They had to wear a noise generator and undergo various tests and analyses for three weeks, in addition to completing questionnaires. The results indicate that wearing a noise generator can modulate both the perception of sound by someone with tinnitus and the perception of external sound, especially in workers with no hearing loss. These groundbreaking results open a tangible avenue to assist in the rehabilitation of workers with tinnitus in order to improve their quality of life and their capacity to work.