Background noise for tinnitus and insomnia?
January 12, 2015 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Travel background noise setup - Does anyone have a fan or a noise audio file (white, brown, pink?) they can recommend? Do you have a setup to play these sounds all night long that you feel works well for you? Bonus points if it doesn't have bright lights.

My spouse has tinnitus. Some sort of background noise at night is helpful. I tend towards insomnia and I find the a background sound to be helpful too. A fan can work well, for example.

When we travel, we tend to rent and don't always have access to a fan. We've been using an older ipod and small speaker. The noise loop is just ok, but the speaker has intermittent interference or feedback on wall power, which is needed for 6+ hour playback. My spouse can't hear this as it is high frequency, but it is not restful or relaxing at all. In general, spouse sleeps better than I do.

We've tried "sound machines" before several years ago. They tended to work really well for awhile and then have odd high frequency sounds as well or to simply fail. But perhaps they've improved? Or there's some nifty new tech solution to this. (I have been working on the insomnia and it is better, but there's still a bit of room for improvement.)
posted by egk to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
There are headphones designed for sleeping in now in a kind of headband - these plus a white noise app on the mobile phone would do it.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:13 PM on January 12, 2015

What technology will you have with you? I find that laptop speakers are significantly more three-dimensional than a phone, though you can make a phone or iPad work fairly well, especially if you can put them in something for an echo (I do this with my phone set speaker-end-down in a drinking glass, or with my iPad with the speakers pointed into a corner).

I use the Sleep Machine app (I think is iOS-only) but there are a dozen apps that do what it does - let you choose from a sound library, including mixing several sounds. I tend to use a wind + a steady rain, though I used to have an Android app that had sound files like hair dryer, clothes dryer, car driving on wet road, etc.

But in my actual bedroom I use a little, fairly packable clip-on fan from CVS, pretty close to my head and pointed straight up when it's too cold to want the breeze on me. I could see putting that in a suitcase if I really needed it.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:27 PM on January 12, 2015

For one person, I would suggest the bedphones with an iPod or iPhone. I've tried a couple of white noise machines and I have been disappointed with both the quality of the sound and how quickly they break down. If you are looking specifically for something to use to help both of you while traveling, i would suggest a small fan like this one . It only weighs 1.7 pounds, small enough to fit easily in a suitcase and plugs into the wall so it won't run out of batteries every night.
posted by metahawk at 3:28 PM on January 12, 2015

You need a Dohm in your life! No lights, no odd high frequency sounds, just soft white noise all night long -- it sounds just like a fan because there's a little one inside of it. Super easy to pop in your suitcase for travel, too.
posted by divined by radio at 3:29 PM on January 12, 2015

Or, instead of sound-file-playing "sound machines", maybe just go straight to the source and get an original Dohm/Marpac sound conditioner. It's got an actual fan in it, and it's what is used in clinical environments for privacy (when area-wide sound conditioning or wall-reinforcement is impractical).
posted by Lyn Never at 3:29 PM on January 12, 2015

There's an iOS app called "Ambience" that lets you have whole libraries of sounds.

Also, the app "SleepCycle" comes with a variety of sleep noises. SleepCycle has an accelerometer that knows, from your movements during the night, when is a good time to sound the alarm; you keep it plugged into the power supply and tucked under the sheet just out of the way so you don't lie on it or smother it with a pillow.

Both these apps are a boon and I wouldn't want to exist without them. If having an iPhone were the only way you could get apps with this functionality (and I'm not saying it is), then I would get an iPhone on the strength of these two apps alone.
posted by tel3path at 3:31 PM on January 12, 2015

If you have a smartphone and/or tablet, I highly recommend the app White Noise. Much cheaper than an actual machine and it doubles as an alarm. I use it on my iPhone (and sometimes iPad) without headphones or external speakers.
posted by Brittanie at 3:33 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use the White Noise app and am really fond of it. I also have a DOHM for when things are really super annoying and it's helpful. I'd invest in a better speaker (or get an old iPhone) and get a ton of apps and find the one that works best for you.
posted by jessamyn at 3:36 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use the this white noise app on my iphone, and I really like it. (Also, it's free!) It's got a variety of different sounds, although I usually stick with the ocean waves sound. You can set it up with or without a sleep timer. I don't need to use external speakers, and I find it's loud enough even at half volume, but YMMV on that.
posted by litera scripta manet at 3:37 PM on January 12, 2015

For me its podcasts or audiobooks on my iPhone.
posted by WillRun4Fun at 3:40 PM on January 12, 2015

I made a recording of our dryer, and my wife listens to it each night on an endlessly looping playlist in an old iPod with a cheap speaker.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:49 PM on January 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use an air filter-floor model. I set in on med or high at night and on low during the day.
It has the fan noise for my tinnitus and cleans the air of dust, dander and dog.
posted by donaken at 4:08 PM on January 12, 2015

I'm an Ambiance (iPhone or iPod touch) fan also. You could play through the iPhone speaker or get something like a Jambox which is supposed to have 10 hours of battery life on playback. I use the Ambiance app to get shut-eye on long international flights.
posted by elmay at 5:28 PM on January 12, 2015

I recently got someone a sound machine as a gift, Homedics brand, recipient really likes it. But that could be the one you had problems with.

Personally I use a clock radio that has a weather band. If you tune the weather part of the radio between stations, there's a very pleasant white/brown noise effect--quite different from am/fm. Have been using it this way for almost 15 years.
posted by aerotive at 7:25 PM on January 12, 2015

Don't have access to a fan? Really? I bring a little one, and if it's a little bit aged, all the better, because it hums.
posted by LonnieK at 7:28 PM on January 12, 2015

I really like the Relax Melodies app. There's a ton of different sounds and some instrumental music tracks and you can mix them together in all sorts of ways.
posted by kassila at 8:48 PM on January 12, 2015

I have a Marpac Dohm as well and it's been pretty great. It had an issue recently where I had to send it back to get it repaired; the bearing in the fan started making a really annoying noise. It's taken a month or so and I've resorted to leaving a normal fan on in my room, which has been drying out my skin and given me a nosebleed. It also transmits a lot more noise through the hard floor and my bed than the Dohm does.

It's not very portable though. I haven't tried using other things (like my phone) while out and about - usually I just hope I can get to sleep ok, and that works. I use an app for my phone called Sleep Cycle and it seems to have some sort of built-in noise generator that is probably worth trying.
posted by Brassica oleracea at 10:16 PM on January 12, 2015

After a little experimentation, this is the combo that seems to work for my tinnitus, if anyone cares.

I bought these Bluetooth headphones:

They seemed to have the best reviews, and I was willing to pay the extra money. I especially like them because they have volume controls built in to the headset.

I use this Android app to play the audio. It has a loop option that lets me play a song over and over again:

I found some hours-long sleepy audio and I play it on repeat every night.

I recommend that you try to avoid completely masking the tinnitus. Instead, you want to provide just loud enough audio for yourself that you pay more attention to the audio than the tinnitus. I got this idea from reading about "Tinnitus Replacement Therapy" (TRT) online. In theory, TRT teaches you to see your tinnitus as something unimportant in the background like the noise of a refrigerator.

I have a single microUSB charger by my bed. During the day, it charges my bluetooth headphones. During the night, it charges my phone as my phone plays music.
posted by astrofinch at 12:37 AM on January 13, 2015

I also use the White Noise app and am very happy with it. Lots of different noises you can choose from.
posted by biscotti at 4:38 PM on January 13, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you so much for the suggestions; we both appreciate it. I've got quite a few options to check out. There are so many sound apps out there that having some pointers really helps. I had forgotten about those little clip on fans. The weather radio and the dryer noise ideas are really intriguing. I find both those sounds to be very soothing!
posted by egk at 6:31 AM on January 15, 2015

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