Tinnitus and hearing aids: How they’re connected and what it means for you

✓ Evidence Based

tinnitusWhat is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It is most commonly a symptom of hearing loss, but it can also be attributed to an ear injury or circulatory system disorder. It affects an estimated 15 percent of people and can be caused by one or more of the following: age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, earwax blockage, and/or ear bone changes[1][2]. Excessive noise can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, so if you work in a loud environment or frequently listen to loud music on your headphones, you may want to consider wearing earplugs at work or dialing down the volume on your headphones to minimise your exposure to excessive noise. Since around 8 in 10 of those affected by tinnitus also have hearing loss, treating your hearing loss with a hearing aid can be an effective method to treating tinnitus.

Could hearing aids be the answer?

A survey of hearing professionals from 2007 found hearing aids to be “an exceptional starting point for tinnitus patients.” The survey found that around 6 in 10 patients reported minor to major relief of their tinnitus symptoms, while around 1 in 5 experienced major relief [3].

Why are hearing aids an effective solution?

  • They provide a masking effect
    • Since hearing aids increase the volume of external noises, they in turn mask the sounds of tinnitus. It is therefore more difficult to consciously perceive the symptoms of tinnitus, and the brain can more easily focus on outside noises which leads to a more pleasant sound experience.
  • They enhance external auditory stimulation
    • Hearing aids increase the level of auditory stimulation by augmenting the volume of external noise. The brain’s auditory pathways are therefore stimulated by soft background sounds which might not otherwise be heard.
  • They may lead to better communication and social interaction
    • Tinnitus can make it difficult to engage in conversation, watch tv, or listen to the radio. Since hearing aids increase the external volume of such activities above the perceived volume of tinnitus, tinnitus sufferers may experience less frustration and therefore enjoy their daily activities more[4].

Which hearing aid styles and features are best for tinnitus symptoms?

  • miniRite, behind-the-ear hearing aids
    • miniRite, behind-the-ear hearing aids are one of the best styles for tinnitus sufferers since they do not block the ear canal and instead sit behind the ear and provide a wire that travels into your ear canal. The earpiece on the miniRite uses a small, comfortable silicone cap which fits into the ear. This style allows sound to move naturally around the receiver and into the ear canal. This allows the user to hear background noises and have a more natural sound experience[5][6]. An example of this type of hearing aid is the Oticon Opn miniRite, which provides a natural, 360-degree sound experience.
  • Hearing aids with supplemental white noise functionality
    • Many modern hearing aids include a supplemental sound masking functionality where white noise (along with other noise options) is played into the ear, thereby masking the perception of tinnitus4. Another feature of the Oticon Opn hearing aid is that it includes sound therapy for tinnitus symptoms which provides a range of customisable tinnitus relief sounds such as three broadband sounds: white, pink, and red noise, as well as natural, ocean-like sounds[7].

Tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss which affects around 15 percent of people. Hearing aids are an effective treatment in significantly reducing tinnitus symptoms by providing increased external, auditory stimulation which in turn masks the perception of tinnitus. Seek out miniRite style hearing aids with supplemental white noise functionality to get the most out of treating your tinnitus with a hearing aid solution.

If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, you can book an appointment with your local hearing care expert here.

[1] Understanding the Facts. https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts.
[2] Tinnitus. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156
[3] Tinnitus Treatment and the Effectiveness of Hearing Aids: Hearing Care Professional Perceptions. http://www.hearingreview.com/2008/12/tinnitus-treatment-and-the-effectiveness-of-hearing-aids-hearing-care-professional-perceptions/
[4] Hearing Aids. https://www.ata.org/managing-your-tinnitus/treatment-options/hearing-aids
[5] Open fit hearing aids. https://www.hearingaidknow.com/open-fit-hearing-aids
[6] Open-Fit Hearing Aids: What’s the Real Difference? https://audiologicalservices.net/audiology-news-lufkin-tx/open-fit-hearing-aids-what-s-the-real-difference
[7] Tinnitus SoundSupport: Manage tinnitus with sound. https://www.oticon.com/professionals/brainhearing-technology/tinnitus

 

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