Tinnitus Treatment with Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are still the ideal treatment available for tinnitus.  First let me explain what exactly Tinnitus is.

Tinnitus is a condition in which a consistent noise is heard in the ear in the absence of an external source of sound.  

Tinnitus (pronounced tin-ny-tus or Tin-u-tus), also known as any perception of buzzing, clicking, ringing, or hissing sounds in the ear is a common symptom. According to the American Tinnitus Association over 50 million Americans experience tinnitus, nearly 15% of the general public. Most of these people also have hearing loss. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, research has shown that hearing aids fit by qualified audiologists are an effective way to manage and help one’s tinnitus.

Some more facts and information about tinnitus is that treatment from medical professional advised.  It can vary, so Tinnitus can last several years or be lifelong.  Common for ages 60 and older and more common in males

So do hearing aids actually help tinnitus? Research has shown that hearing aids help tinnitus. Three ways hearing aids help tinnitus are: masking and attentional effects, auditory stimulation, and improved communication. Furthermore, audiologists can include a separate tinnitus masking program (i.e., white noise) in the hearing aids programming to decrease one’s perception of his/her tinnitus.

A 2007 survey of hearing health professionals revealed that 22% experienced significant help with hearing aids and 60% of patients with tinnitus and hearing loss experienced some help with hearing aids and. Hearing aids cut out background noise, therefore, reducing the loudness or prominence of tinnitus. Additionally, hearing aids help to improve overall communication abilities which then results in reduce stress making it easier to accept/cope with tinnitus

How do hearing aids help tinnitus?

Tinnitus is most noticeable and perceived more in a quiet environment. A common management technique an audiologist may recommend is to mask the tinnitus out. As a general reader, you may ask what does mask the tinnitus out mean? Masking out tinnitus means to add natural or artificial sound to cover up the tinnitus. Hearing aids on their own, without any separate programming, adds natural sounds to overshadow tinnitus.

Hearing aids not only increase the clarity of speech but also increases the volume of surrounding sounds such as environmental sounds and background noise. The brain is now focused on actual sounds within the environment and although the tinnitus is still present, the tinnitus is not perceived as much or at all, therefore, masking out the tinnitus

Auditory Stimulation

An analogy I like to use with patients when counseling about tinnitus is the phantom limb syndrome. You lose an arm, physically the arm is not there, but the brain still feels the arm is there and any pain associated with the limb. Similarly, with hearing loss, there’s damage to the auditory system and the brain still thinks the sound is coming in when I fact there is no sound. The brain, therefore, supplies “its own input.”  Hearing aids provide the brain actual sound to perceive, thus stimulating the auditory system and therefore the tinnitus blends into the actual environmental sounds and the brain stops “supplying its own bothersome signal.”            

Tinnitus can be very frustrating and when you can’t follow a conversation, hear the television clearly, or talk on the phone tinnitus can then become exasperating. Hearing aids are designed and programmed to increase clarity and speech understanding. With improved communication ability comes feeling of less withdrawn and isolated. With hearing aids, the patient is now able to partake in conversations and not as focused is not on his/her tinnitus.

In some cases, hearing aids by themselves are not enough for patients. Newer hearing aids are all equipped with a separate tinnitus masking program that audiologists can program to specifically tailor each patient’s needs. The tinnitus masking program should only be set-up by a qualified audiologist and used in conjunction with everyday hearing aid use, as instructed. Counseling needs to be part of tinnitus management as well.

 Indeed, Modern digital hearing aids by such companies as Widex and Oticon have a tinnitus management program available for audiologists to use if hearing aids by themselves are not enough to decrease one’s tinnitus perception. Tinnitus masking programs are different types of relaxing and soothing sounds (white noise, static, ocean noise) to further assist with decrease tinnitus perception.

Widex hearing aids are the most well-known hearing aids for tinnitus relief. Widex hearing aids are equipped with the Zen program. The Zen program is a holistic approach to tinnitus management provides counseling, fractal tones, relaxation, relaxation exercises and Counseling.

Why do people get Tinnitus?

The underlying causes could be:

Hearing Loss
Damaged blood vessels in the brain near or around the ear
High blood pressure
Overactive thyroid
Tumors in head and neck
Clogged arteries around middle or inner ear

Please see a hearing professional if you are experiencing Tinnitus.  We can help!


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