Can Hearing Aids Offer Tinnitus Relief?
Tinnitus can be a difficult condition to live with. While researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes it, many believe it may be the brain’s response to a lack of sound stimulation. If the brain receives insufficient auditory information through the ears (perhaps because of hearing loss), it’ll start creating its own, leading to a reduction in the quality of life of the person experiencing the condition.
Tinnitus is often referred to as a ringing in the ears which is not caused by any external source of sound. But tinnitus can produce a variety of sounds. Individuals may experience whirring, rasping, ticking, chiming, buzzing and clapping noises, among many others.
Most people experience some kind of unexplained noises in their ears from time to time, usually after having been exposed to something loud, like a rock concert. But it’s important to note that these transient symptoms do not constitute tinnitus. Tinnitus, rather, is a chronic condition where intrusive, endogenously-generated sounds affect a person for the majority of their waking hours, prevent them from sleeping and cause significant distress.
Tinnitus can come and go, like many medical conditions. But the critical feature of the disease is that it persists through time. A person who has had tinnitus once is likely to experience it again.
The symptoms of tinnitus
The symptoms of tinnitus can include all of the sounds discussed above. The critical point is that the phantom noise, whatever form it takes, appears to have no external source.
The key word here is “appears.” Some types of tinnitus really do have an external source; it’s just not obvious what it is.
Subjective tinnitus is the type of tinnitus that most people think of when they conceptualize the disease. Subjective tinnitus describes the form of this condition that only the suffer can hear. Often, this kind of tinnitus is caused by the mind itself or the nerves running from the ear to the brain. At other times, it can be caused by false signals sent from the inner ear. Either way, it cannot be detected by an audiologist.
Objective tinnitus can, in principle, be detected by a doctor. This type of tinnitus could be caused by something tangible, such as a problem with the bones or blood vessels in the ear.
Can hearing aids offer tinnitus relief?
Hearing aids offer tinnitus relief to many patients due to masking features these devices can be equipped with. Since subjective tinnitus could be the result of a lack of auditory stimulation of the brain, hearing aids may help resolve or improve the condition by providing more sound to the ears. All the extra stimulation may prevent the brain from hallucinating its own sounds, helping to eliminate symptoms. Hearing aids, however, are unlikely to be able to resolve objective tinnitus, as this is usually related to real problems with the biological machinery in the ear.
Research suggests that hearing aids may be effective at reducing the symptoms of tinnitus. Evidence suggests that patients who start wearing hearing aids experience a reduction in the persistence and severity of symptoms. There is also evidence that wearing two hearing aids is better than wearing just one.
What about specific types of hearing aids?
Some hearing aid styles may be better for treating tinnitus than others. Open-fit hearing aids are a type of device where the main part sits behind the ear and then a small, non-intrusive tube runs into the ear canal to provide sound directly to the eardrum. The benefit of this design is that it eliminates the common “head in a barrel” feeling that people get when wearing conventional molds. The open-fit design keeps the ear canal open, creating a more natural-feeling aural experience. Open-fit devices may help tinnitus sufferers by reducing the sensation of claustrophobia while chewing or speaking.
Some hearing aids also come with tinnitus mitigation technology. Hearing aids can be designed to put out a kind of white noise sound intended to distract the wearer from symptoms of tinnitus. Over time, a person acclimatizes to the noise the hearing aids produce and tinnitus leaves their conscious attention. This is sometimes called the “habituation process.” White noise can serve as a useful distraction for both subjective and objective forms of the condition.
If you want to use hearing aids for tinnitus relief, then get in touch with our experts today. We can offer a range of services, from recommending specific assistive hearing devices to giving support on how to manage your conditions. Learn more about Desert Hearing Care by calling this (480) 985-2544.