Finding relief from ringing in the ears with the music of Sound Options

OSHAWA — Michael Chrostowski is the founder and president of Sound Options Tinnitus Treatments Inc. The company uses specially modified music to stimulate the ear and brain, and to reduce the causes of tinnitus.

The sound of high-pitched violins is sweet music to the ears of Durham Workforce Authority Executive Director Heather McMillan, who is undergoing sound therapy to treat chronic tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

“I can’t remember when it started and I can’t remember life without it,” says McMillan of her tinnitus, which can be caused by cumulative noise exposure, head and neck injuries or ear infections, and has no known cure. She became aware of a new tinnitus treatment offered by the company Sound Options, when it was announced as a winner in last year’s Ignite competition hosted by the Spark Centre in Durham Region. The DWA was a sponsor of Ignite, a start-up pitch competition for technology, innovative and invention-based businesses.

For two hours a day, McMillan listens through earphones to one of four custom-made music CDs she purchased from Sound Options, with the expectation that her tinnitus would be reduced up to 60 per cent in two or three months. After just two weeks with the CDs, she says the tinnitus is “not the object of my attention anymore. It’s kind of amazing.”

Sound Options was founded by Dr. Michael Chrostowski, who has a degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Toronto and a PhD in neuroscience from McMaster University. He found that changes in the brain cause the ringing or whistling sounds of tinnitus, with brain neurons misfiring. Sound Options uses specially modified music to stimulate the ear and brain, customized to each individual based on how he or she hears the tinnitus. On its website, Sound Options says every tinnitus sufferer perceives a unique sound because the brain changes that cause their tinnitus are different from person to person.

The company works with various clinics and audiologists in southern Ontario to make the technology available to patients. McMillan first underwent a hearing test, and then the Sound Options software uses information from the assessment to make unique changes to music based on how the customer hears the tinnitus. Each customer gets a uniquely modified music CD specifically processed to reduce their tinnitus. McMillan purchased four CDS for a total cost of $350, and is excited at the progress she’s experienced after faithfully listening to the music daily. “Considering the way (the tinnitus) was, any reduction would be a miracle,” she says.

Sound Options advises people with tinnitus to first see a doctor to rule out other possible conditions, and then sound therapy may be an option.  The website includes information on clinics offering the therapy, which in Durham Region includes Professional Hearing Services of Ajax, Professional Hearing Services of Whitby, and Auditory Pathways in Uxbridge. Call Sound Options toll free 1-866-688-3772.

Disclaimer: Heather McMillan was not compensated for this post nor did she or the DWA receive compensation for the purchase of the Sound Options treatment.