Tinnitus is the experience of noise or ringing in the ears without the presence of a physical source. It affects about 15% of Americans and can be caused by one or more of the following: loud noise, age-related hearing loss, earwax, and physical injuries to the ear.
Tinnitus has many of the same harmful effects that hearing loss has. For instance, tinnitus also hurts an individual's physical and emotional well-being, causing increased levels of stress, issues with concentration, sleeping problems, and a diminished ability to hear. In turn, these can affect a person's social life, personal relationships, and ability to work.
The relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss
Hearing loss and tinnitus are often related, with up to 80% of those with hearing loss also displaying tinnitus symptoms. Those exposed to loud noise for extended periods are the most likely to experience tinnitus.
Why might this be the case? There are fragile and sensitive hair cells in your cochlea (part of the inner ear) that can be harmed by exposure to excessive sound levels. This can lead to a loss of clarity in your hearing, and the same type of damage can lead to tinnitus.
How hearing aids help tinnitus
A 2007 study of hearing professionalss found hearing aids to be a great starting point for those with tinnitus. About 6 out of 10 patients reported mild relief from their tinnitus symptoms through the use of hearing aids, while about 1 out of 5 experienced substantial relief.
How do hearing aids help when it comes to tinnitus? There are two main ways:
Hearing aids expose you to more sounds. Because the amount of external stimuli is increased with hearing aids, they also help block tinnitus sounds. This expansion of the sound palette makes it harder to notice tinnitus symptoms, and the brain can help the individual concentrate more readily on the sounds in front of them.
Hearing aids often have tinnitus programs built into the device. To help mask intrusive sounds, many of today's hearing aids have tinnitus features. There are also mobile apps built by hearing aid manufacturers that help provide even more sounds and relaxation techniques.
Given the link between hearing loss and tinnitus, many hearing aid manufacturers have their proprietary programs to manage tinnitus, which either come as a standalone app or are built into the hearing aid itself.
In many of its hearing aids, Widex includes Zen therapy technology. It all starts with a hearing practitioner finding the frequency of your tinnitus. Zen therapy then generates fractal tones that help you concentrate on other sounds, reducing the tinnitus's effect. The fractal tones are continually evolving, meaning your brain doesn't get a chance to get used to the sound.
With the Tinnitus Balance Portfolio, Phonak wants to train your brain to see tinnitus noise as mere background noise. This is achieved through a three-pronged approach, including Phonak Tinnitus Balance hearing aids, a broadband noise generator, and sound therapy through an iPhone or Android app.
Tinnitus SoundSupport provides a useful tinnitus treatment tool that includes adding sounds to the sound environment you are already hearing. Tinnitus SoundSupport includes built-in tinnitus control technology: white, pink, and red noise broadband relief sounds and a range of ocean-themed relief sounds that promote a calming effect.
Starkey tinnitus's technology provides wearers with a bank of soothing sounds that you can personalize to alleviate your tinnitus symptoms.
Multiflex Tinnitus Technology provides wearers with:
Notch Therapy is a scientifically validated approach to tinnitus treatment that is particularly beneficial for the most common form of tinnitus: tonal tinnitus. This technology is only available through Signia hearing aids.
Notch Therapy helps relegate tinnitus sounds to the background. In doing so, overstimulation is minimized, and the brain 'learns' not to hear the tinnitus sounds anymore, making life without tinnitus a real possibility. Notch Therapy also addresses tinnitus inaudibly and unobtrusively, unlike the static noise and ocean wave approaches of other hearing aid manufacturers.
If you have permanent tinnitus, then there is currently no surgical procedure that can cure it. Although hearing aids can help you manage your symptoms, it is essential to remember that they will not cure tinnitus.
However, this should not deter you from using hearing aids if you have tinnitus. Many people suffering from the condition can continue living their life as they see fit with the tinnitus management benefits of hearing aids.
If you're looking for a hearing aid to help you manage your tinnitus symptoms, we're here to help! Contact us today to set up an appointment.