Tinnitus – or ringing in the ears as it is commonly known – is a condition that has something of a reputation as being difficult to treat. As the symptoms tend to vary significantly between people, and there is no known “cure,” most people have to find their way to the treatment that works for them specifically. There is no universal experience of tinnitus; some people hear loud noises constantly, others hear faint sounds intermittently, and some hear a mix of the two extremes. Due to this, it perhaps makes sense that there is no universal treatment for the condition either.

Nevertheless, while understandable, tinnitus remains problematic for those that experience the condition. Fortunately, there is one treatment that tends to produce favorable results across a range of people and tinnitus symptoms: hearing aids.

How are hearing aids used to treat tinnitus?

There are two different reasons hearing aids can be successful for treating tinnitus; the first seeks to correct any underlying or previously untreated hearing loss.

While several different issues can cause tinnitus – it is thought that one of the most significant causes is an untreated hearing loss. In fact, research has shown that up to 90% of people who have been diagnosed with tinnitus also experience a degree of hearing loss.

The reasons for the connection between hearing loss and tinnitus is thought to be related to sound deprivation. It has been theorized that when a person has untreated hearing loss, the sound they have lost due to this is replaced by what we call tinnitus. To treat this issue, standard hearing aids, which amplify sound, can be considered. As wearing hearing aids removes sound deprivation, a person’s tinnitus may then naturally subside.

However, using standard, amplifying hearing aids alone is not always sufficient when seeking to treat tinnitus. For some people, tinnitus continues even after treating their hearing loss and, as we mentioned above, 10% of people with tinnitus do not have hearing loss. In these cases, hearing aids equipped with specialist tinnitus-masking features can be used.

How do tinnitus masking features work?

Tinnitus masking is perhaps best described as a method of distracting the brain from noticing tinnitus sounds. The goal is not to remove or cure the actual sounds produced by tinnitus, but instead to try and prevent a person from noticing the sounds directly.

If a device is equipped with tinnitus-masking capabilities, it will play continual sounds by way of distraction. Over time, the wearer will not actively hear the sounds from the device, nor will they hear sounds related to tinnitus. The effect is similar to how white noise machines can help people sleep by reducing external noise intrusions; the unwanted sounds (in this case, the tinnitus) simply become background noise thanks to the masking technology.

The sounds produced by tinnitus can be debilitating and harmful to a person’s quality of life; with masking, these sounds quickly become irrelevant, allowing them to ignore the condition and thus providing effective relief.

Who can use hearing aids for tinnitus?

For the most part, anyone who is seeking an effective treatment for tinnitus should consider hearing aids – whether this is to treat underlying hearing loss or to use hearing aids with tinnitus masking features.

It is, however, essential to note that while hearing loss appears to be the primary reason that people experience tinnitus, but it is far from the only reason. Many underlying issues, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), anemia, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and even medication side effects, have been linked to tinnitus. In these cases, seeking advice from a medical professional is highly recommended. Many people find that if the underlying cause can be resolved, then the tinnitus resolves itself without need for further, tinnitus-specific treatment. Of course, if the treatment is not successful, or the condition lingers despite treating the presumed cause, then hearing aids with tinnitus masking capabilities can then be considered.

Tinnitus may have a reputation as being difficult to treat, due in no small part to the sheer variance the condition can pose between individuals. However, hearing aids are one of the most recognized and successful methods of treating the condition – either by providing amplification to treat hearing loss or via tinnitus-masking features. As a result, visiting an audiologist for a hearing test and to explore further treatment options is highly recommended to anyone experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus.

To learn more about Audiology and Hearing Aid Center and the hearing aids we offer, contact 920-969-1768 today.