Tinnitus is a phantom ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, humming or buzzing sound with no external sound source. Unless the underlying cause of tinnitus can be identified and treated, there is no cure for it. Fortunately, there are plenty of tinnitus management options, including wearing hearing aids.
The Relationship Between Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, 90% of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. This is in part because both are often the result of damage to the auditory system, like from noise exposure or the natural aging process. In addition, having hearing loss means less external sound stimuli reaches the brain, which can cause the brain to undergo neuroplastic changes in regard to how it processes various sound frequencies. Tinnitus is sometimes the product of these changes.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
One survey of hearing health care professionals found that approximately 60% of tinnitus patients experienced at least some relief when wearing hearing aids, and 22% experienced significant relief.
There are thought to be several reasons for this:
- Masking effect. Hearing aids turn up the volume on all sounds in your environment, making them loud enough to mask the sounds of the tinnitus. The louder background sounds also serve as a distraction so that you are paying less attention to your tinnitus and more attention to what’s happening around you. This masking effect is especially effective for people whose tinnitus and hearing loss occur in the same frequency range.
- Auditory stimulation. When you wear hearing aids, it increases the amount of auditory stimulation your brain receives, preventing the type of maladaptive neuroplastic changes discussed above.
- Improved communication. If your tinnitus is loud and debilitating, it can make it difficult for you to participate in conversations and social activities, like book clubs at The Seattle Public Library. Hearing aids make it so the sounds of your conversation partner are louder than your tinnitus, helping reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
For more information about the benefits of hearing aids or other tinnitus management options, or to schedule an appointment with a tinnitus expert, call Evergreen Speech and Hearing Clinic today.