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Plasticity – train your ears

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Plasticity is a pitch discrimination game — that is, a game which tests and improves your ability to distinguish between similar sounds based on their frequency (pitch). You hear two sounds, which may have the same or different frequency (with 50-50 probability) and your job is to say whether they have the same frequency or different frequencies. At first, the differences are fairly obvious, but as you level up, they become smaller and smaller, which makes your job harder.

Plasticity can be a fun game to play (at least, if you believe some of my friends). In addition, it might be helpful if you want to improve your pitch discrimination skills – for example, if you’re a musician.

Plasticity is based on the Firefox Audio API and, as such, requires Firefox 4 or higher. Plasticity uses the HTML5 Web Audio API. It has been tested to work (at least) in recent versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari – including mobile devices (in the latest release).

I wrote Plasticity to treat my tinnitus (a phantom sound in my head). The idea was to re-wire the auditory cortex in my brain through repeated training in order to change my perception of the tinnitus sound. The name “Plasticity” refers to cortical plasticity – the ability of the cortex to reorganize in response to stimuli. Did Plasticity help my tinnitus? Well, I no longer have a tinnitus problem, though I am not sure to what extent Plasticity contributed to the improvement. If you have tinnitus (especially pure-tone tinnitus), you might as well give it a try. Here are some tips on how to use Plasticity for tinnitus.

Feedback request

If you’re using Plasticity for your tinnitus, don’t forget to post a comment below. I want to know how it went!

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117 Comments so far ↓

  • David

    Why is there such a low upper limit on the frequency range? 10548 or something? Thanks.

    • Tomasz

      Human hearing has a large dropoff in sensitivity above 10,000 Hz. Tones above that frequency sound very quiet and there’s not much you can do about it, even if you try to equalize perceived volume. This makes it difficult to tell the difference between sounds at those frequencies. If frequencies above 10,000 Hz were allowed, user performance would be very uneven. On an easy level, it would look like this: lots of easy questions interspersed with really hard ones (those above 10,000 Hz). I tested this and it doesn’t make for a very enjoyable experience.
      In fact, unless you target a particular frequency, the limit is even lower: about 7900 Hz.
      Is the 10,000 Hz limit a problem for you?

      • amanda ross

        Tomaz,
        Hi – I hope it is okay to get in touch with you. I have recently developed high tone T which is getting louder each day – probably due to the fact that I obsess about it all the time. Anyhow, no help from local doctor….and all he says is take higher dose of Xanax. I would like to use your plasticity game please. But I am a complete idiot when it comes to techno stuff. Please can you help and advise me how to do this – I am sure that there must be others like me out there who need techno help.
        I am running a laptop with windows 7, vista home basic on it.
        So I think that I have to run chrome yes?
        What do I do once I have downloaded Chrome? Will my laptop work with plasticity using this vista home basic that I have. All the other stuff is just too techno for me but if you can please help me out (and probably others) to know what to do – if you prefer please feel free to reply to my email address so that you don’t have to clog up these comments pages with this – although I feel sure that there must be others in my postion.
        Many many thanks and I really looking forward to hearing from you as soon as you have a spare moment – this T is driving me insane….thank you again Amanda

    • Timmy Stevenson

      Tinnitus and insomnia kinda of go hand in hand when it comes to sleeping. Many people that suffer from ringing in the ears can’t sleep because the noise is distracting. If you want to be able to tackle to day correctly and easily, everyone needs a good night rest. My brother used a Sonorest or a noise machine to get to rest during many of those restless nights. Most of the other types, he would use Lipo Flavonoid tablets to make sure that his tinnitus treatment always stayed down and not as loud. He wasn’t thrilled with having to take a pill several times a day, but the magic that this put my brother in was amazing. He was always mad and lashing out at people, saying that he can’t deal with the noise and pain. He tells me if it wasn’t for Lipo and his noise machine he would have gone down a bad path. Look into modern medicine if you are suffering from tinnitus.

  • Nicoli

    I just began with this. I can’t say much after two days, but it feels like there is a chance it can help my tinnitus.

    Does this improve your hearing too, or to say how clear you intercept sounds?

    • Tomasz

      It improves your ability to tell similar tones apart, so in a sense it improves your hearing. I haven’t noticed much difference in everyday life, but if you do music, you might.

  • Nicoli

    Before I start, I was thinking about if the results can be shown more advances. Like summing up in what frequencies one scored the right/wrong answer.
    I’m also having problem determining my frequency I don’t really understand how to do it. I run Firefox although nothing happens when I’m on the online tone generator, I tried the Java page, but what should I do? Play the piano and resemble my T with the Piano tone, to get my frequency?
    Maybe it’s just the best to leave it as it is to have a variation as T might change from day to day.

    Short background story, I have had T since 2000 from a noise trauma, standing near a very very loud nightclub speaker.
    The T I developed in my right ear, only right ear, even possible that we all have infections when we are children and I always found my right ear as some how less good than my normal left, but nothing serious, but tended to be more fragile and because of the noise I got T.
    The T was very low, never bothered me, I could only hear in at sleep if I concentrated hard.
    Since 2000 I have been going to all sort of clubs, listening to loud headphone music etc etc and never got any problem,

    Two months ago I put on the headphones and played music for 1-2 hours. This time I really played the music high, I later measured it to 98-103 dB.
    After this I developed high pitch T. A tinnitus that I can could hear all the time even in medi noisy areas, as in the car/bus/train/school/work…

    Now my troubles started and I started to be very careful and look for solutions to get rid of it.
    I still am.

    On October 23 I got this tinnitus. Two weeks later I started to use a ultra sound device, results? Well hard to say if it did anything, I’m still evaluating if it did, although I stopped using it after one month.

    23 November I started with an homoeopathic medicine, that has helped me allot.

    5 Dec I started putting eardrops in my ear using Noni extracts, evaluating.

    15 Dec I started with Plasticity.
    I’m living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy, making sure I get all the natural vitamins, and believe Vit C is important.

    So many things add up when working with tinnitus trying to get better, and also the background story is important, what kind of tinnitus one has, if it was from a noise trauma or health issues… how long have you had it before starting to battle it etc…

    What I can say now after two months I feel much better, my tinnitus pitch has changed, it’s no longer strong, it’s no longer full of energy, sending out strong noises and most important what I felt after two months was that the first to second month testing listening the music through headphones or speakers the T raised in power and bother the music. Now when I listen to music I only hear to music even in the lowest settings.

    To say something about Plasticity is I believe that just after five days that it helps allot.
    After a session my T can dissapear sometimes more or less, for a minute. And can stay much lower up to 15 minuts…
    I think it does something, it’s a helpfull tool, just like my other treatments, and I believe much patients have to be taken, and I’m going to play it for atleast one month, to see if it further betters my tinnitus.

    My tinnitus today is far from what I want it to be, but also far from what it was two months ago, then I could hardly enjoy life, it was taking over my life and ruining it.

    I will follow up after further progress.

  • Kass

    I’ve had T since the age of 12 (i’m 38 now) and can say that I got completely used to it for years and it never bothered me after a few months. Last year a friend developed T and in reassuring her I started to listen to my own T again, and sure enough it seemed to get louder. I’m now having to learn to live with it again which is proving stressful (but haven’t lost all hope!).

    One thing I should mention is that my hearing has been described as excellent (back then and very recently), but I do have neck and jaw pain and was diagnosed with TMJ a couple of years ago. the problem is the medics I speak to still say there is nothing they can do, in contrast to the information I have found in that there is plenty that can be done and T has been known to subside after successful treatment for TMJ. I’m in the process of hunting down someone in my area who may be able to do something.

    If any of you have T and no hearing loss I would approach someone trained in TMJ disorders and get them to do something to help you. Otherwise, just know it does become ‘your silence’ after a while. Hearing therapy also helped me alot when it got ‘louder’ last year.

    • Nicoli

      Did you use any antibiotics? Antibiotics are ototoxic and can permanently worsen tinnitus or cause it for them that don’t have it, as many medicines break down the structure of the ear.

  • LL

    I am just starting with Plasticity and will let you know how it goes. I have T in both ears, multiple tones, so I don’t expect it will be as helpful as for those with one tone only.

    Nicoli, is your T now in both ears, or still just one?

    • Nicoli

      My T was always in one ear. I finished with the Plasticity after one month. It did not lower my T, but I can’t say for sure, it might have lowered it a bit. Yet I have the feeling I perceive it less now, I don’t think about it that much.
      I might give it another try soon.

      What really helped me was a homoeopathic medicine named “Ear Ringing Formula” from Newton Labs.

  • jkhgames

    Great article! I suffered huge anxiety with the onset of my tinnitus, now I can sleep through and sometimes even find it soozing – lol. But when I have episodes of loud tinnitus even for a second, it freaks me out. Just remember and believe in power of your mind. I find it useful to say to yourself that the noise is phantom noise and it is not really there and another thing I found useful was the trick you called the Refrigerator Trick, it works.

    • Tomasz

      Thanks for writing! I also find it soothing sometimes — it’s like a reminder that my brain is still working — my brain’s dial tone 🙂

  • norman strath

    Hi everyone, I am 52 and had T for 10 years now and can identify with the loop affect. I am in the loop now but reading this has helped me break the loop. When i used to go to bed i could hear my T quite bad but used a technique of letting my mind wander to a free place and imagine myself doing things like playing as a child running through the fields and things like that anything really that would take my mind off it. I can now sleep very well without any additional help. I also have a mindset that T in it`s self will not kill you not the actual noise so get used to it what is the worst that can happen. i also used to wear hearing aids which would help mask the T but when I took the aids out my t would get worse. Also if you can play music all round the house at low volume. That can help a great deal. Sound Enrichment it is called just google it.Well done to all the people involved.

  • rodmcdonald

    thanks for your efforts.
    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/oct/26-ringing-in-the-ears-goes-much-deeper#.Ug3OaNKTQVi

    As the tinnitus actually affects the whole brain ( I can actually feel it, and it affects my memory and temper ) I feel that your training in combination with meditation will be more effective. When I meditate, ( vipassana ) it sometimes brings me relief, and I feel this is because it relaxes me a bit. Sometimes it does, but I’m yet to really go hard at it.
    If you read the article above, I think Tinnitus needs a multi-pronged attack.
    Again, thanks for reaching out and using your brilliance to help others.

  • rodmcdonald

    They have done some studies with Tibetan monks in relation to plasticity

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-baksa/consciousness_b_1205909.html

    I suspect it needs the emotional involvement. In Chinese medicine, depression is cited as a common cause of Tinnitus.

  • Claire

    I developed tinnitus in both ears due to exposure to ambient noise pumped in through vents into an open office space work environment (The idea is to have the office noisy enough that you cant hear your colleagues). However unfortunately it was difficult to know it was noisy because the sounds sent through the vents were ambient white noise, hence I didn’t realize the damage being done. I was doing long work shift so that didn’t help.

    This tool is very cool, however it would be good to know what frequencies you aren’t good at at least after say 5 turns, i.e. a report. Maybe then you could hone in on certain frequencies more easily.

  • pechanniter

    I tried plasticity for a week a while ago but I dropped out, like your FAQ says, because of boredom. I know have the motivation to start again. But could you perhaps increase the upper limit? Using your tone generator I found my tinnitus is somewhere above 13,000 hz, so from what I can understand, I should benefit more from playing the game if the tones were set around that frequency, right?

    Anyway, thanks a lot for making the game, hope it helps you and everyone else who comes by it!
    Peter

    • Tomasz

      Peter,
      One problem is that speakers have difficulty producing very high-pitched sounds — you would have to really crank up the volume to be able to distinguish similar tones. But then the lower-pitched sounds would become unbearably loud. Plasticity tries to compensate for speaker (and ear) sensitivity, but for very high pitched sounds this becomes hard to do.
      Another problem is that above a certain frequency, the ability to distinguish frequencies is much lower (in relative terms). A difference of 1/4 tone is very easy at 1,000 Hz, but very hard over 10,000 Hz. Plasticity doesn’t have any mechanism of correcting that difference.
      If your tinnitus is around 13 kHz (you might want to check again, it’s easy to get wrong), I would recommend training around the 14917 Hz limit.

  • Sonia

    Hi,
    Thanks for the online game, it is fun. Is there any way of adding a result function that tells the player which frequencies they got wrong?
    cheers
    Sonia

  • kate

    25 years ago, when I first heard the hissing sound in my left ear, I thought I was going to go mad, lose my hearing and never hear the voice of my grandchildren. My GP dismissed my condition by saying ‘there is no cure’. Leaving me desperate, I researched for help but there was very little in those days. After 4 desperate years of living with the condition, I got a part-time job. Being busy at work and with the children, I gradually forgot about my condition. I never noticed that the noise wasn’t there. After 12 years, the tinnitus returned with a vengeance perhaps due to an accident at work. I didn’t know how to adapt to this new situation, I was really stressed, after 7 months I went on holiday to the Far East. Upon my return to the UK, I couldn’t hear the tinnitus anymore. Last December I was in another stressful situation at home, sitting alone at home, I heard a slight sound in my left year. My brain started paying attention to the noise especially as the house was quiet and I had nothing to do to take up my free time. A few weeks later, I was in my vicious circle once again. I couldn’t sleep, went to my GP and once again was told, ‘there is no cure’. I thought after 25 years, the GP’s have no understanding of this condition, nor any sympathy. Yesterday I found this blog, what can I say, it’s been a life saver. Today, each time my brain concentrated on the damn noise, I’d slap myself of pinch my hand. Thank you, thank you for posting this blog and for everyone’s comments. Goes to show, stress can bring upon this condition, have some background noise at all times. Keep your brain busy with thoughts, so that the brain cannot focus on the noise.

  • Justin Barry

    Thank you so much for these tips and very helpful advice. I have just developed Tinnitus and hope to face this in a positive way. Regards, Justin

  • Rose Dow

    This is a very helpful tool, I use it and notice a difference. The severity of my tinnitus is high, on a scale of 1-10, I’m at a constant 8 or 9. I notice that after a few days of game playing I’m at a 4 or 6. Thank you!

  • Guy Chaifetz

    For someone with tinnitus that is a ten, tinnitus is life threatening. Pure madness. Aliens inside my head. Different noises every day. Unable to be masked. Unable to put in the background. Then out of nowhere, it goes away for a day. But never overnight. Usually comes back while I’m falling asleep, seemingly louder than before. Has cost me my business, my retirement, my home. Will be the end of me. I heard it all. I’ve read it all. There is little or no hope.

    • bj

      I felt the same way when i first got tinnitus after listening to a loud band almost 30 yrs ago… the band was ‘Doug and the Slugs’. You WILL get used to it in a short period of time and paying attention to a healthy way of life will lead to recovery. One of the most helpful items are blood circulation supplements like cayenne pepper and ginko biloba. Eliminating pharmaceuticals is also recommended. Hang in there and KNOW that there’s a lot of folks dealing with the same issues. Definitely give Tomasz’
      research a listen 🙂

  • Rob Stokes

    Thankyou for your web pages. I will try the training.
    Now in my 50’s I have had tinnitus for about 10 years. Loud clubs, played in & saw many bands, working in construction – drilling, hammering etc, riding & racing motorbikes. One day the post gig / post race meeting howl / whine became permanent. Like the whistle from a TV. I could live with it – although quiet moments in the countryside were not so for me – then last year was persuaded to go to a music festival & forgot my earplugs. Really not good. Since then the whine has been several x louder & very hard to ignore. The clock you mention in your comments reminds me of the clock in our front room when I was a kid. We grew up with it & friends would say “that clock is so loud” but we had stopped noticing it to the point that we had to concentrate to hear it! I hope somehow we can train our brains to not notice our tinnitus.

  • vedran

    Hi!

    My tinitus is pure sine waveform at 95Hz, any chance you can extend plasticity down to this frequency range?

    Thanks and greetings from Croatia.

  • amanda ross

    Tomaz,
    Hi – I hope it is okay to get in touch with you. I am reposting this here as I think that i may have posted a few minutes ago in the wrong place so am putting it here, Please accept my apologies for any mistakes I have made.
    I have recently developed high tone T which is getting louder each day – probably due to the fact that I obsess about it all the time. Anyhow, no help from local doctor….and all he says is take higher dose of Xanax. I would like to use your plasticity game please. But I am a complete idiot when it comes to techno stuff. Please can you help and advise me how to do this – I am sure that there must be others like me out there who need techno help.
    I am running a laptop with windows 7, vista home basic on it.
    So I think that I have to run chrome yes?
    What do I do once I have downloaded Chrome? Will my laptop work with plasticity using this vista home basic that I have. All the other stuff is just too techno for me but if you can please help me out (and probably others) to know what to do – if you prefer please feel free to reply to my email address so that you don’t have to clog up these comments pages with this – although I feel sure that there must be others in my postion.
    Many many thanks and I really looking forward to hearing from you as soon as you have a spare moment – this T is driving me insane….thank you again Amanda
    By the way I am in rural france…..

    • Tomasz

      Amanda,
      You need either Firefox or Chrome to run Plasticity. You can install either browser on Vista Basic. After you install Firefox or Chrome, just open it and go to plasticity.szynalski.com.

      • amanda ross

        ok tomasz – thank you for your reply. I downloaded chrome. But in the beginning it is telling me to calibrate and i dont see how to do that? Please help…so i started using your plasticiy without calibration…is that ok or do i need to calibrate and can you help me with this please? thank you

  • amanda ross

    Just wanted to add – if I download Chrome will it interfere with my system – I know it says it wont but I downloaded chrome before and then had problems getting into some sites so I took it off. I am happy to reinstall but just need some expert IT guidance here please. Many thanks
    Got a reply to my email to say confirm so have done that…many thanks

  • amanda ross

    Tomasz, Cos it says drag the slider in steps 1 to 5, but i cannot see a slider to drag…Please help me thank you so much

  • amanda ross

    Thank you Tomasz,
    I shall have a go tomorrow Monday sometime and let you know how things are and how it went…thank you again
    amanda
    by the way, just to understand, how often is one supposed to play this game….is it many times in the day or just once a day or what…for the moment I am doing it on speakers on the laptop but can I use earbuds instead for it? Would thatl be better – or is speakers better than buds? Just afraid to do more damage to my ears (which hopefully suddenly seem to be quietening down a bit today,,,,)

    • Tomasz

      Amanda, check the FAQ page for more information. Laptop speakers don’t produce low frequencies very well — headphones are better.

  • Tim

    You said you tinnitus got worse after attending a loud concert with a friend. Did you wear earplugs then?

  • David

    I recently developed tinnitus in my right ear. From the start it has sounded like white noise, like a distant waterfall, with no particular tonal emphasis. But last night I tried Plasticity for the first time, and a few hours later a new component was added to my tinnitus: a high, piercing tone somewhere above 10 Khz. It’s not that loud, but loud enough to be extremely bothersome. It’s interfering with my sleep quite a bit.

    It could be a coincidence, but it would be a funny one. Is there anything I can do?

    • Tomasz

      Sorry to hear that, but I can only offer the advice that I’ve already given on my blog: don’t think about it (mask if necessary) and it will go away. Plasticity (with the default settings) doesn’t go beyond 10 kHz, so I have no idea why you’d be hearing a > 10 kHz component. Anyway, the scientific hypothesis that Plasticity is based on is related to pure-tone (or narrowband) tinnitus, as this is the type of tinnitus that has by far the biggest body of research. I should probably make this clearer in the docs.

  • Fenas

    You say you don’t have a tinnitus problem anymore. Does that mean you don’t have it or you just got uses to it? And how long did you have tinnitus and what did you all do about?

  • FeatherJack Maine

    Tomasz, I’m enjoying using this! If you don’t mind a feature request, I’d like to see a third button, labeled “What Tones?”
    I could use that…

  • carolinaandbaby

    Have used your game for a week and my tinnitus seems much improved. Dont know if it is real or a coincidence. My tinnitus has a strong emotional component to it but I think your game is helping. I cheated one time and I played the game with my two musician daughters and I scored over two million. Most of the time I score 40,000. What is a normal score in your experience?

    • Tomasz

      Thanks for your report. Not sure what score qualifies as “normal”, as your scores depend on training. What’s a normal score in Tetris? In chess? Etc.

  • carolinaandbaby

    Fair enough answer. I will keep playing.

  • Carlos

    Hi Tomas: I’ve been suffering from pure tone tinnitus since more than a year now, although sometimes there are a few high pitched tones at the same time, something like a simplified fax machine sound.
    I won’t go into details into my history, but sometimes it’s been hell and it’s changed my life (it has added to preexisting health issues, specially chronic pain and a physical disability, I can hardly walk using crutches). I just wanted to let you know that I think your plasticity game somehow helps – I’ve been using it for 20 min a day (10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening). Since I can’t measure and compare my own tinnitus (it’s hard to “remember” how it was 1 week ago or 1 month ago), I can’t say for sure that there has been such improvement, in fact, I still hear the sound. But sometimes it seems quieter, and it’s calling my attention less than before.
    Previously I had been trying to listen to tones with the same frequency of my tinnitus, or a continuous sound that during 15 seconds goes from the lowest frequency to the highest I can hear, and back (like a siren). When I do that, the tinnitus goes away completely or almost, but the effect only lasts for a few seconds, then the tinnitus creeps back in.
    What makes plasticity very different, or so I think, is the fact that it requieres an “active”listening, I have to make a mental effort. I think that makes all the difference, and I truly think that the plasticity theory makes sense. My tinnitus originated from a multiple medicine intoxication, but it has not gone away even after stopping to take the medicines, so I guess some kind of permanent change must have taken place somewhere in my brain. If that is true, one way to cure the tinnitus would be to “learn” to reverse this change. I also suspect that the sooner this therapy starts, the better the changes of avoiding this permanent change to settle in. But of course, I don’t know. I don’t even know if the problem is the sound itself, or the ability to hear some brain activity that maybe was already there but was not picked up as sound before. This tinnitus thing is a mistery to me.

    Even if there’s really an improvement from using Plasticity, I don’t know how far it can continue, or if it would hold if I stopped using plasticity. Time will tell, but I wanted to thank you for creating it. I’ll report again if I feel like I can confirm the improvement some months from now.

    Last, I wanted to suggest that you consider turning Plasticity into an android App, I would certainly pay for it because for some reason, I can’t use it in my smartphone browser (a Galaxy S5 – using firefox the sound is jerky instead of smooth, and using the built-in stock browser, it just crashes after a while, so I have to use my desktop computer every time). The app could be free for all frequencies and paid for the ability to use the custom frequencies option, or something like that. It’s just a suggestion, you probably have already thought about it.

    Thanks a lot for all the information you provide in this page, and for the plasticity game.

    • Tomasz

      Thank you for your report, very interesting!
      Using a phone is perhaps not the best idea, since audio fidelity on phones is not great, even with headphones.
      I just tested Plasticity on my Android phone (running Chrome) and it seems to work fine (other than the sound quality). I only played it for 2 minutes, though, perhaps not long enough to see the crash you described.
      I’ve never made an Android app, so writing one would take me a long time.

    • Marc Napoli

      Carlos

      I definitely agree that the active part of it seems to make a difference. I’ve been using plasticity for just a week and it seems less intrusive.

      From all of the reading I’ve done on neuroplasticity it seems that the brain needs an indicator or marker to know when to rewire. Just listening passively isn’t enough to do it in my opinion. You need to gamify it or get the brain to make a logic decision when you hear the sounds. Hence the need to push the brain into detecting the tone differences is what makes it stick.

      In saying that, I wonder if there is a better mechanism than simply detecting whether tones or are the same or different?

      Some ideas:

      – Play three tones and get the listener to detect the up/down between them
      – Play a tone and then have the listener slide a slider to what they think the same frequency is
      – Make it all multiplayer so there is a sense of immediate competition
      – Turn the sounds into distorted versions of their own voice or those of loved ones, to engage the emotional centres of the brain

      These are just some ideas but overall I think the eventual treatment for tinnitus will settle on something that relies on active brain training to rewire the brain.

      Cheers
      Marc

  • Angela Johnson

    I Received an iPod for my 56 birthday last august. Never had problems with ears before then . I tried it at decent level when I went to sleep about a week later I noticed a slight ear ache . Intuition told me it was the darn ear buds iPod causing it . so I stopped using it . I read manual and sure enough it gives a small warning . My husband then complained his one ear felt plugged up . He uses those things to exercise .I told him it was probably the darn things . He ignored my comment . In September I noticed a soft hum I thought it was a DVD player . Later I come to find out it was me. Well in October I had some stress family issues then December I had to work crazy retail holiday hours lots of pressure then one morning in Dec. I woke up to a loud tea kettle in my head. I take flavenoids for it now. Some days are good some bad . Stress seems to trigger mine. On bad days I have to come home and have everything be peace and quiet . just the tea kettle and me or whatever appliance or gadget is ringing in my head. Until I am calm . I read your blog and tried the plasticity for first time today . I will follow your directions and see how it goes. I appreciate all your info . Please write back with your thoughts and i can help others with this as well . Thank you.

  • tOM, Ottawa

    Hi. I can usually ignore my tonal tinnitus, but am having some problems understanding some (mostly soft) speech. Has this kind of training improved speech recognition?

  • plasticmusic

    Thanks very much.

    I’ll be using this to help me find out and fine tune what my tinnitus frequency is.

    I’ll be using the result to use a “notched band” music therapy protocol being investigated by

    Okamoto H., Stracke H., Stoll W. & Pantev C. Listening to tailor-made notched music reduces tinnitus loudness and tinnitus-related auditory cortex activity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 107, 1207–1210 (2010). [PMC free article] [PubMed]

    It looks like it might help (don’t try notched white noise!) and it complies with everything I learned in Ed Taub’s neuroplasticity classes, so kudos to Ed.

    Fingers crossed, and thanks again. (let me know if you try it too)

    Best,
    Rick

  • Tina

    Hi Tomaz. Not sure if my tinnitus is tonal or not (must ask!) but noticed when I tried to find my level the tone in my left ear had gone! Have mostly a hiss at present – I do get several different noises. I can never make my mind up if I have tinnitus in the left ear as well as the noise seems to travel across my head. I found the last test in the series (no 6 I think) to determine whether the two tones were equal in volume impossible as I could only hear the one tone.
    The game is fun and I did two rounds!
    Tina
    p.s. I don’t do twitter or facebook etc

    • Paul

      My god I didn’t realise loads of people have it. I got it a month ago, and after a few days of on-line research and loads of ‘horror’ stories I really lost the plot, and upset my wife, who thought I was going to kill myself. There were those thoughts running through my mind, However, I’m stronger than that, and this guy here, has boosted my moral 100%. Thanks.

  • tOM, Ottawa

    fwiw, when playing, i find it easier to ask myself, does the tone change up or change down. If I can’t decide, then I choose “Same”

  • philosophyexperiment

    I have had tinnitus for 16 months. It started during a sinus infection that took 3 months to treat. The tinnitus in my right ear stopped when the infection was cleared but has persisted in my left ear. This is only my second day trying plasticity but so far I have noticed slightly less intensity to my tinnitus. While I am using the program, the perception of pain I have from the tinnitus goes away. I started yesterday when I thought I just couldn’t take the incessant noise and the pain that perception caused. I will post again after trying plasticity for a month.

  • alison little

    I have had tinnitus for years and never noticed it in the day and used a fan at night , but recently about 2 weeks ago I had a virus which affected my eustachian tubes and my tinnitus has been bothering me like when I first got it , however I stupidly still went along to a 1d concert woth my daughter , I wore earplugs but am experiencing tinnitus in both ears and panicking that this is it now , will I get back to how I was ??? Im trying not to get anxious and trying to stop myself from homing in on it , its exhausting as im constantly trying to distract myself , Thanks

  • Srik

    Hi Everyone,

    This is the first time I am sharing about my T and the things I did in order to cope up with T. My T started 2.5 years ago, the first year was horrible and whole of my life went upside down, but from last one year or so it went almost unnoticeable.

    I am 34 years now, I have some hearing loss from last 15 years. All of a sudden in June 2012 I experienced small noise inside the ear and the noise level was like that for first 6 months, and in Dec 2012 it went from low level to medium level. I have consulted few doctors and searched all the forums just like everyone. It took almost a year to digest the T fact.

    I have started changing my lifestyle to overcome T affect. I have stopped smoking and alcohol completely. Started going to gym and reduced salt intake.
    One fine day my friends dad (Doctor by profession) advised me to take the below tablets, I took medicines for about 3 to 4 months and found my T reduced a lot.

    Vertin 20mg – Daily once
    Levo Citrizile 10mg – Daily once

    I suggest you to take doctors advice before starting above medicines, as far as I am aware there are no side affects.

    I don’t know the exact thing which contributed in reducing my T, but I observed one thing whenever I started smoking my T noise was quite noticeable, so I stopped smoking completely.

    I thought of sharing this info with you all guys.
    Good luck.

  • Lord Denton

    Hello! I really like your game and I have a suggestion to make it even better! It would be faster if you could choose your answer using the left and right arrow keys. Not that it’s hard to do it with the mouse, it’s just a tiny bit frustrating. It’s not much, but it is the difference between playing 2-3 games a day and playing just one.

    All the best, -Lord Denton

    • Tomasz

      Compelled by the force of Your Lordship’s splendidly argued suggestion, I took the liberty to implement a keyboard manipulation facility in my application, in accordance with Your Lordship’s most astute design. It is my greatest hope that Your Lordship will be content with these alterations. Should Your Lordship wish to honour me with further interest in the changes I have effected under Your Lordship’s orders and guidance, I have compiled an exhaustive inventory which may be retrieved at this location:
      http://blog.szynalski.com/2015/08/23/plasticity-1-2/
      I remain, as always, Your Lordship’s most faithful servant.

      • peter bishop

        man you are awesome. helping others with tinnitus and hell of a sense of humour. rock on brother

  • Andrew Fisher

    Your online tone generator is much better to use than many of the others used.

  • Lauran

    I’ve had tinnitus for over 40 years–the hissing noise–and have no idea how or when it happened, although I suspect it started after a head injury from a fall from a bicycle as a teenager. Generally, I don’t hear it but, on occasion, the noise woke me up from a sound sleep.

    What I miss most is just silence. Reading the article on tinnitus attached to this blog that mentions most people today never experience complete silence comes as a surprise–and solace. There are far worse afflictions than tinnitus and many people experience pain with theirs, so I rarely complain.

    Thanks again for a fine article.

  • robert

    How do I know what a normal score is

  • Nigel

    This is so strange. The very first tones played instantly lower my tinnitus volume by 80% or so. And then for the first 10 or so different tones I can notice a physical movement / pressure change / something in my inner ear as it plays.

  • bullvinebyrne

    Fantastic blog, really helpfull. I have had mine for 2 months now, it was caused by an ear infection/syringing. I am definitely “in the loop” and finding it hard to break out of it. I think this is because I don’t hear it that often, only when I’m in bed and its really quiet then my mind help but listen to it.

  • Rog667

    Please post a warning that it plays high-pitched sounds, for those with Hyperacusis with their Tinnitus.

  • Kentone

    My T sounds like a jet engine running at high RPM all the time and am always looking for any help. Had the idea to find the freq. for starters and am wondering now if anyone has heard of using the same principle as noise canceling headphones to reduce the tone? Obviously the circuit can’t “hear” the noise to reverse and cancel it but with a known freq. it could be manufactured to match it I’m hoping? I only have it in one ear, am a musician and envision an adjustable tone cancelling ear-piece that can dial-in the specific tone for removal. I then can still hear music normally with regular headphones worn over the earpiece. Obviously that specific freq. will be removed from the music in that ear as well I assume but that would still be much better than having to simply ignore the Lear jet ready for takeoff in my head all the time.

  • Susan lowndes

    I am using my iPhone 5s and can’t get past stage one of voice calibration. Every time I hit ‘next’ it just stays where it is.

  • Toby

    Hi, how close together are the frequencies at each level? I’m interested as I’m a music student trying to work out how much micro-tonality I can discern. Thanks.

    • Tomasz

      I’ll just paste that part of the code. baseDeviation is given in tones, i.e. for level 3 it’s 0.5102 of a tone. It drops by a factor of 1.4 when you go up a level. But the actual difference also depends on the frequency. For frequencies < 600 Hz the baseDeviation is multiplied by a number between 1 and 2. This is necessary because frequency sensitivity takes a hit below 600 Hz.

      { baseDeviation: 1, points: 50, pluslives: 1 }, //level 1
      { baseDeviation: 5/7, points: 100, pluslives: 1 }, //level 2 – 0.7143
      { baseDeviation: 0.5102, points: 200, pluslives: 1 }, //level 3
      { baseDeviation: 0.3644, points: 500, pluslives: 1 }, //level 4
      { baseDeviation: 0.2603, points: 1000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 5
      { baseDeviation: 0.1859, points: 2000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 6
      { baseDeviation: 0.1328, points: 5000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 7
      { baseDeviation: 0.0949, points: 10000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 8
      { baseDeviation: 0.0678, points: 20000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 9
      { baseDeviation: 0.0484, points: 50000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 10 – theoretical just noticeable difference
      { baseDeviation: 0.0346, points: 100000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 11
      { baseDeviation: 0.0247, points: 200000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 12 – max reached by me
      { baseDeviation: 0.0176, points: 500000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 13
      { baseDeviation: 0.0126, points: 1000000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 14
      { baseDeviation: 0.0090, points: 2000000, pluslives: 1 }, //level 15

      After you give an answer, you can check the exact frequencies and volumes that were played by pointing at the indicator icon in the top-right corner.

  • Reg

    Love this! (And thanks for the keyboard shortcuts. His Lordship had a good idea there.)

    I’m using this not for tinnitus (although I have that) but instead to try to train my brain to use the input from my new cochlear implant. My brain is doing whacked-out weird things for the frequencies I’ve never heard before in my life, which is everything above 1.5 kHz or so. This is also a plasticity thing, and I haven’t found anything else out there as good as this program for targeted practice at convincing my neurons to reorganize themselves. You should sell this puppy.

    Question: Is there any way for me to retrieve my exact data from each session? I’d like to be able to quantify my progress in certain frequencies and see if I progress in some more than others. Raw data are fine. Or for DIY data collection, could we (wish list here) toggle an option in the beginning so that throughout the session we see the exact frequencies without needing to mouse over?

    • Tomasz

      Hi Reg, those are good ideas and I’ve thought about more detailed statistics. Maybe in the future. Unfortunately, right now the program doesn’t keep detailed statistics. The frequency readout would be easiest to implement, but I’m currently busy with other projects. Good luck with the plasticity thing!

  • op

    my score is above 128 000. is that good?

  • Zed

    Hi, would someone with high pitched T at 14khz benefit from the game? Noticed that plasticity’s range was limited to 8khz.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Tomasz

      No, because at 14 kHz the ability to discriminate similar frequencies is extremely impaired.

      • Marc Napoli

        Tomasz

        Any chance of extending this up to 11-14khz as a trial?

        I have the maximum frequency set in the game (10548) but I am able to differentiate between the tones fairly easily.

        I have had Tinnitus for a year somewhere above 10khz (it’s difficult to match but I know it is up there). Right ear can hear up to 15khz but left ear taps out at about 11khz. I suspect the drop in left ear high frequencies corresponds to my Tinnitus.

        Can we trial going a little higher to see what results we can achieve? I am committed to trying the game for 10 minutes a day for the next 30 days and will document the process.

        Cheers
        Marc

        • Marc Napoli

          To give you some idea: on the hardest difficulty and starting at level 6 I am reaching Level 13 with a score over 10 million. Would you consider changing the upper frequencies?

          Fortunately, I am noticing less intrusiveness throughout the day after one week, 2 x 20 minutes a day. Two changes are becoming apparent. In complete silence the volume seems to have dropped. The biggest difference however has been in quiet environments. It seems as though a small amount of ambient noise is now enough to mask where as before it was not.

          I’m 14 months into Tinnitus so I’m fairly attuned to the ups and downs of this thing. I still think about it every day. I still monitor the volume even when I know I shouldn’t. But I think your game is helping me, and I am going to continue practicing for a month before quantifying the results.

          Thank you for putting the effort into this tool.

          • Tomasz P. Szynalski

            Marc,
            I spent the last two days changing the frequency setting code. In the new version, you select the lower and upper frequency separately, with the option to have the range calculated for you after you enter a “target” frequency. Frequencies above 13 kHz are not recommended because the sensitivity of human hearing drops off rather precipitously. This will mean that tones at the upper end of the range will sound very quiet (or completely inaudible – especially for older folks) and similar tones will be very hard to tell apart (because human hearing is much less precise at very low and very high frequencies). Nonetheless, I have experimentally enabled support for frequencies up to 16744 Hz – you’ll have to manually enter the upper frequency to go above 13289 Hz.
            If you (or anyone else who likes Plasticity) can spare the money, a donation to support the continued maintenance of this site would be appreciated.

          • Marc Napoli

            Hi Tomasz

            I just donated $50 USD. Thank you for your efforts.

            Is there somewhere to access the new ranges?

            Cheers
            Marc

  • asd

    so cutting my ear off wont cure this amazing crap? im 27 why do i have this?!
    only solution is a bullet to the brain?

    • Leo

      I have severe t with a high A note frequency. Old musician from the 60’s and then worked under jets. I’ve been told t is nerve damage to the brain by ENTs. You may have damaged your hearing by injury or noise. There is a lipo acid that helps some people over a 3 month period. Walgreens? But never helped me. Still trying to find a solution.

  • Rick White

    I don’t think this will help me. I’m 66 years old, and have been a singer in R&R and R&B bands since 1964. I’ve played ans sang with multiple musicians good and bad; but I casn’t blame anyone for my 5 tones “per ear” tinnitus, but myself. I stood in front of Marshals and Ampegs and 2000 watt PA speakers without ear plugs. I have some hearing loss in both ears.
    The tone are in the range of a “hiss” and frequency of @ 9k hz to 10k hz.
    It’s 24/7/365 and it requires OTC drugs or alcohol (also OTC.. lol) t help me sleep at night. I’ve tried the “snake oil” remedies; such as lipofalvinoids and nothing works at all.
    I did some research a few years ago and discovered a $$$$$$$ treatment that uses Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, focused on a certain area of the brain and relieves Tinnitus in *some* patients “temporarily” the range of relief lasts from minutes to months; depending on the patient’s response to the treatment. There doesn’t seem to be any record of TMS curing anyone.
    I tried this test twice, so I can’t really make a fair judgement..But given that
    I have some hearing loss, and my age, it’s doubtful this test even over 30 days, will do much. I’ll try it. But I’m already failing some tones because I can’t hear anything, let alone whether the tones are “same” or “different”!!
    Thank you for the chance to do this, though. I appreciate it.
    Rick White
    lead singer for The Human Beinz “Nobody But Me” #8 Billboard 1968

    • Leo

      Rick, sounds like we musicians of the 60’s got similar results. Your story sounds like mine. The T is so loud I cannot stand silence and have to fall asleep to the tv or radio. There must be something out there but just have to find the solution. Marshall stacks with psychedelic feed back does wonders for the ears. I always played on the right side of the stage and T is worse in my left ear that faced the amps. Let us know if you discover something. I’ll do the same. P.S. I’ve used this tone maker for songs and frequency. It does something to my hearing like ‘muting’ the T when I hit the same frequency but can’t stand the High whistling of a boiling t-kettle constantly. The best way to describe it. 66 yrs. old now since 1964 with no relief.

  • John Dowling

    Great game but some of the questions do not have a noise attached. Is there a problem? I’m using Firefox.

  • rose

    Hi
    Is it possible you put this as an app in play store or even as an apk. I play an instrument and I use this as a drone tone and it’s very helpful. If it won’t require Internet connection even better.

  • Marc Napoli

    Hey Tomasz

    Just to confirm what’s currently happening with the tool. I am using the highest setting of 10548Hz (that is E9).

    When you say 2 octaves including 10548 is that a test of E7 – E9? (That’s about 2500hz to 10548.)

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Marc,
      Many thanks for your generous donation. Are you sure you’re on the latest version (you might want to press F5 to reload)? The welcome screen should have two fields: minimum and maximum frequency. The new version no longer has the 10548 Hz limit.

      • Marc Napoli

        Hi Tomasz

        I had to Ctrl-F5 reload to get Chrome to pick up the change.

        I have also just noticed that Chrome is causing a problem. I tried the game with 4000 – 8000Hz and then the next game 8000 – 16000Hz but realised I was hearing exactly the same sounds.

        Then I flipped over to firefox to play the game for the first time through that browser. Wow… now I am actually getting way up into the higher frequencies! I can now change the frequencies between games and firefox gets it right every time.

        I went back to Chrome and cleared out all cache data and cookies. I start the game at 4000-8000 and that seems about right. I finish the game. I change the frequencies to 8000-16000 and it sounds exactly the same as the 4000-8000. Something is sticking.

        It would thus seem that I have been training at a much lower frequency than what I thought I was training at. (Remember my T is up high.. possibly 10000Hz). Even so, after one week I have noticed an improvement. Surprising.

        I will use firefox and stick to 2 x 20 minutes on 8000Hz – 16000Hz for the next week to see whether that accelerates the improvement.

        • Tomasz P. Szynalski

          I tested your scenario in Chrome (first 4-8 kHz, then 8-16 kHz) and it worked fine.

          • Marc Napoli

            OK i’m unclear why it’s happening to me. No matter I will continue through firefox.

            Due to the improvements I had the confidence last night to go out to a bar and be in a fairly loud environment for a few hours. This morning, the un-intrusiveness continues. That is a milestone for me after 14 months. I can’t thank you enough for the effort you’ve put into this tool.

            I will report back in a month with progress.

          • Tomasz P. Szynalski

            @Marc
            It’s great that you’re seeing some improvement, especially after 14 months. I’ll be looking forward to your report in a month.

          • Marc Napoli

            Hi Tomasz

            Here is my report from now one month of playing plasticity almost every day. I did take a seven day break in the middle.

            Side note: I took this break because I had an ear infection that was dulling my hearing, and it was playing on my nerves enough for me to stop playing plasticity for a week. The ear infection caused a lot of fluid in my ears and really dulled my hearing until the antibiotics finally resolved the issue. During this week I could hear the fluid rolling around in my ears and I was constantly attempting to unblock my eustachian tubes by stretching my ears, yawning, chewing etc. During this week my tinnitus was VERY intrusive, making itself known to me throughout the day in loud environments where I had never heard it before. This was quite unnerving, but I knew that it was due to my dulled hearing making it more difficult for natural masking from every day sounds to occur.

            With that week aside, my report for the entire month is a clear improvement in the intrusiveness of my Tinnitus. In quiet environments it takes much longer for the T to “attack” and the slightest noise is enough to completely mask it. This has lead me to “hear” it less, which has made me think about it less. I now know what it is like for tinnitus to be a background consideration with no fear or annoyance attached. I can safely say that I have not felt this free for the last fourteen months.

            I am not sure how much of this can be contributed to playing plasticity each day and how much is natural habituation. My scores seemed to have hit a plateau and my highest was Level 12 on Normal difficulty. If anything, I seem to drop out now on level 10-11 most games and can’t get back to Level 12. Every day I have played for approximately 15-20 minutes, always doing over 400 comparisons (a number suggested in the monkey study of tonotopic remapping).

            If I had to guess, I would say my tonotopic map has been somewhat remapped. I would also suggest that playing in the 300-8000Hz range is sufficient even for people with very high pure tone T. I can only guess mine is up above 11Khz as hearing tests show I have no hearing in my left ear above 11Khz whereas my right ear goes up to 15Khz. The tone is too difficult to match. My early attempts with playing plasticity at the 6000-12000Hz did not seem to have as beneficial an effect as playing at the 300-8000Hz range and if anything made things worse. Maybe something about playing in the 300-8000HZ allows these regions to grow which eats up the hyperactive neurons in the higher ranges. Complete guesswork there.

            I am going to continue playing for another 30 days and will report back once more.

        • Tomasz P. Szynalski

          @Marc
          So, after 14 months of tinnitus, you used Plasticity for a month, and you’re seeing your first significant improvement? That would indicate that the game may have had something to do with it.
          Anyway, thank you for posting such a detailed report and I have to say, it feels great to hear that a game I developed may have helped someone achieve freedom from constantly thinking about tinnitus. Congratulations, keep it up, and do stay in touch!

          • Marc

            Hi Tomasz

            Just to let you know – I never did continue with this. I don’t see T as a large problem in my life anymore, and thus didn’t feel like giving it any more attention that it deserves.

            Cheers
            Marc

          • Tomasz P. Szynalski

            @Marc
            Congratulations, looks like our stories are quite similar! In both cases, Plasticity training occurred around the “tipping point”, but it’s hard to say whether there was any causal relationship.

  • Marc Napoli

    Also, what are your thoughts on passive audio techniques versus something active like the plasticity game?

    It would make sense that to me that remapping of neurons can only really occur when you are active as opposed to passive. For example, in notching therapy you don’t need to make a decision or commit anything to memory. I think there is something in the very act of needing to engage other parts of the brain that adds to the plasticity element.

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      Yes, that’s the idea. The act of getting feedback (correct answer) causes your brain to grow new neural connections (or strengthen existing ones) much more quickly than passive listening. The fact that you are able to reach higher levels is evidence that your neural network has adapted to the task.

      • Marc Napoli

        Hi Tomasz

        One other suggestion – as the notes are played can you allow for a debug option where the actual frequency being played is displayed alongside the Same/Different buttons?

  • Marc Napoli

    Tomasz

    What are your thoughts on this?

    http://www.detinnitiser.com/

    Cheers
    Marc

  • Marc Napoli

    Tomasz

    One last game request. can you also add a “pass” button alongside the SAME/DIFFERENT buttons?

    The reason being some of the higher frequencies I cannot hear so I am simply guessing. I would prefer to get the answer wrong and then later be able to see which ones I was unable to hear.

    Cheers
    Marc

    PS. What did you write this game in? Would you be willing to share the source code for others to work on?

    • Tomasz P. Szynalski

      If you just want to know what frequencies are difficult for you, you can check the frequency after you answer, maybe write it down on a piece of paper. Not sure what the value added would be in having a list of frequencies where you answered wrong.
      Plasticity is written in JavaScript. About sharing the code, I don’t think the app needs that much “working on”. You could add some bells and whistles, but I think it’s good enough “as is”.

  • Keith

    It’s nice that there’s some hope even if that’s all it is, thank you for writing and sharing this software. My tinnitus is more white noise and a higher pitch than the generator can really reach with any volume, however I’m hopeful I can find a harmonic so at least I know the frequency. Best regards

  • Thurstan Hethorn

    Hi Tomasz,

    I like your work. I’m looking to use it as part of an assistive device/hearables hackathon.

    I intend to support you and certainly will not commercialise the product. If any money does come my way ie winning the competition or further investment I will definitely be in contact.

    In any case what you have done is very interesting and that you provide it for free/donation is very generous of you.

    Have to go and get into the project.

    Thanks
    Thurstan

  • Pam

    Thank you so much for such a useful blog.
    Had tin for number of years and do find hearing problematic. It’s got bit worse lately, but because it’s brain-related I’m going to try hypnotherapy. Will let you know how I get on.
    It got really bad a couple of weeks ago – to the point of me really panicking that this is how it was going to be and I couldn’t deal with it. I went to the Chiro to dismiss anything neck related, and that calmed it down a bit, but he was telling me that some recent studies have suggested it may be caused or exacerbated by excess salt. I have cut back and I do think it’s a bit quieter.
    One of the biggest tin reductions came after I had a morning in the garden and was doubled over with a trowel most of the morning. Feeling very happy in the afternoon, I was shocked to realise my tin was almost gone. It came back gradually, but nothing like it was. I could have cried!
    Will keep checking in for other suggestions and thanks again. BTW, pretty sure mine was caused as I was in a group for some years in the late 60s.

  • Jacki

    I think you should add a button for “I can’t hear any tones”. There were several times when I didn’t hear anything so I was just guessing, so my results weren’t very accurate.

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