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Comment & Response
January 24, 2019

No Evidence of Broadband Noise Having Any Harmful Effect on Hearing

Author Affiliations
  • 1VA Rehabilitation Research & Development Service, National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research, VA Portland Health Care System, Portland, Oregon
  • 2Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(3):292. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.3995

To the Editor We are writing in response to the article by Attarha, Bigelow, and Merzenich,1 which concluded, “Sound therapies using unstructured, random (white) noise should be avoided as a treatment for tinnitus.”(E1) Their recommendation was based on animal studies that revealed long-term exposure to low-level broadband noise (BBN) resulted in central auditory changes that “bear striking phenomenological overlap with the persistent, widespread disinhibition of the auditory system thought to underlie tinnitus in humans.”1(E2) They noted that BBN delivered from ear-level devices to treat tinnitus produces the same type of acoustic stimuli used in the animal studies. It therefore seems plausible that continuous use of BBN could affect the human auditory system in the same manner as seen in animals, suggesting the need for research to evaluate the premise. The authors, however, pointed to the animal findings as justifying a broad recommendation against the use of ear-level noise generators.